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Thread: Blues, Stomps, & Rags #29

  1. #1
    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Mar 2017
    Ottawa, Canada

    Default Blues, Stomps, & Rags #29

    Charlie Burse (1901-1965) was another blues mandolinist who played with the Memphis Jug Band (see: Blues, Stomps, & Rags #20, Vol Stevens, and #26, Will Weldon). Burse was born in Sheffield, Alabama. His first instruments were banjo and guitar, on which he first recorded. He also played tenor guitar, mandolin, ukelele, piano, saxophone, and spoons. He joined the Memphis Jug Band in 1928, making sixty recordings with them, then continued to work with Will Shade, the band leader, throughout his life. Burse had the nicknames, "Laughing Charlie," "Uke Kid Burse," and "The Ukelele Kid." Besides playing in the Memphis Jug Band, he was with the Schlitz Jug Band (sponsored by the brewery), and recorded with Charlie Burse and His Memphis Mudcats in 1939. Sam Phillips recorded Burse at Sun Studios in 1950. The folk and blues researchers Samuel Charters and Alan Lomax separately recorded Burse and Shade the 50's. The pair went into the studio again in 1963, at which point they were playing mainly in the streets and at house parties. They began to get attention in the blues revival of their last years, but Burse died of heart disease in 1965. Apparently, he had been a fun-loving fellow who didn't manage money well, but left a great musical legacy (information from Wikipedia).

    In the Thread to Blues, S, & R #26, I commented: "I listened to videos of Memphis JB tunes which had Charlie Burse credited on mandolin. However, after the first few seconds, I could barely hear the mandolin because of the other instruments, so I didn't post the videos. I suspect that Burse was strumming chords or not playing through most of the tunes." I want to thank "Maudlin Mandolin" for bringing to my attention better recordings with mandolin credited to Charlie Burse. Still, I'll hope that the Memphis Jug Band didn't have a fourth mandolin player. I'm confused enough already, and can't claim to distinguish between the playing of Vol Stevens, Will Weldon, and Charlie Burse. If particular pieces are credited wrongly, you're welcome to attempt the detective work on who deserves credit.

    Added two hours later: Just to complicate matters further, the Memphis Jug Band did have a fourth mandolin player, Laura Dukes (se Blues, S, & R #21). My source credited her with playing mandolin on "Mary Ann Cut Off," while Maudlin's source credited Charlie Burse. In the words of Dagwood Bumstead, "Sheesh!"

    This is perhaps the best mandolin recording featuring Charlie Burse. If the links don't work, search YouTube for "Memphis Jug Band -- My Love is Cold".

    Here's an enjoyable recording by the Memphis Jug Band with Charlie Burse on mandolin. If the links don't work, search YouTube for "Fourth Street Mess Around -- Memphis Jug Band".

    For those who are interested, here's a 1959 TV recording of Charlie Burse on guitar, and Will Shade on washtub bass. If the links don't work, search YouTube for "Will Shade and Charlie Burse".

    (Thanks again to "Maudlin Mandolin" for guidance on this week's Blues, Stomps, & Rags.)
    Last edited by Ranald; Nov-18-2018 at 11:58am. Reason: additional info
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

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  3. #2
    wannabe mandolin wizzard bluesmandolinman's Avatar
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    Mar 2003
    Berlin, Germany

    Default Re: Blues, Stomps, & Rags #29

    another good post, thanks
    Carl Martin - Everyday I have the Blues

    My gear : 1927 A0/Ajr , JM-11 , Fender 346 white XH

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