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BS: Washboards

Roger the skiffler 05 Nov 99 - 11:39 AM
Rick Fielding 05 Nov 99 - 12:03 PM
Allan C. 05 Nov 99 - 12:13 PM
Rick Fielding 05 Nov 99 - 12:15 PM
Liz the Squeak 05 Nov 99 - 12:41 PM
Mike Billo 05 Nov 99 - 12:59 PM
Bert 05 Nov 99 - 01:02 PM
Bill cameron 05 Nov 99 - 03:54 PM
Chet W. 05 Nov 99 - 03:55 PM
Mike Billo 05 Nov 99 - 09:20 PM
Rick Fielding 05 Nov 99 - 10:46 PM
Margo 05 Nov 99 - 11:00 PM
Mike Billo 06 Nov 99 - 01:15 AM
reggie miles 06 Nov 99 - 03:48 AM
katlaughing 06 Nov 99 - 03:54 AM
Mike Billo 06 Nov 99 - 10:42 AM
Margo 06 Nov 99 - 11:51 AM
reggie miles 06 Nov 99 - 12:00 PM
Jack Hickman - Kingston, ON 06 Nov 99 - 04:51 PM
MandolinPaul 06 Nov 99 - 05:04 PM
Mbo 06 Nov 99 - 06:04 PM
Sue 06 Nov 99 - 08:44 PM
Rick Fielding 07 Nov 99 - 12:01 PM
Mike Billo 07 Nov 99 - 07:55 PM
catspaw49 07 Nov 99 - 08:46 PM
bassen 08 Nov 99 - 03:37 AM
Roger the skiffler 08 Nov 99 - 03:49 AM
Marc 08 Nov 99 - 07:42 AM
reggie miles 08 Nov 99 - 08:44 AM
Roger the skiffler 08 Nov 99 - 09:10 AM
reggie miles 09 Nov 99 - 03:34 AM

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Subject: Washboards
From: Roger the skiffler
Date: 05 Nov 99 - 11:39 AM

This may be a silly question (but it's never stopped me before).
In the '50s when skiffle was popular it was easy to get a washboard as most of our grandmothers had one, communal wash-houses were still a feature of our industrial inner cities and only the posh had washing mashines.
Do drum manufacturers now produce facsimiles for jug bands etc. or do the drummers have to pay "antique" prices?
The late Beryl Bryden had hers plated (?silver or chrome).
One of George Melly's jokes is that having a drummer with a washboard on tour makes getting the skid marks out of longjohns in a hotel washbasin much easier.
Are the only percussionists on the 'Cat bodhran players? RtS


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Subject: RE: BS: Washboards
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 05 Nov 99 - 12:03 PM

Pre-war Bilt-rite for me. Always go tin, tin, tin. Stay away from zinc (and glass!) For variety: two salmon cans (don't use Tuna - they'll think you're cheap). Glue wasteband elastic around the openings in your thimbles and they'll stay on much better. Put decoupage of Gus Cannon, Washboard Sam, and Jeff Muldaur on the wooden part as a conversation starter.
Buy 'em in antique stores (at about 30 bucks a pop), but first hold 'em up to your ear and test 'em for tone. It'll drive the proprietors nuts. I dress up in suit and tie first and take Duckboots' brief case. Open case, remove spoon and (gently) rub across washboard while looking thoughtful. When owner comes scurrying over, ask them what kind of wood this company uses. You'll have given the shop owner something to talk about for the rest of his life. Women antique dealers rarely ever even notice you (are they smarter?) so don't even bother doing your act for them. It's harmless fun! See Ya Rog.

Rick


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Subject: RE: BS: Washboards
From: Allan C.
Date: 05 Nov 99 - 12:13 PM

No, you're not alone, Roger. I snagged a brass one at the local Salvation Army for $10. I got a half-sized version at the same place a few weeks later for $5. I am fairly sure that they are still manufactured and are sold mostly in the sort of stores which cater to the farming communities. But I would wager that the prices aren't any better than what I paid. -- I just interrupted this post to call a couple of places around here. First I called a farmer's co-op store: Nope. Then I called an Ace Hardware Store: Nope, "...can't get them anymore". Next I found one of those privately owned hardware stores that seems to carry anything and everything: Yep. Small ones are $6.59. Big ones are $12.99. If I get a chance, I will go down there and check out the manufacturer's name and then try to see if they are still in business. I'll let you know what I find out.


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Subject: RE: BS: Washboards
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 05 Nov 99 - 12:15 PM

Allan's right. "brass is great".


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Subject: RE: BS: Washboards
From: Liz the Squeak
Date: 05 Nov 99 - 12:41 PM

If you have a high Indian/Asian population in your area, try some of their shops - you can get them in downtown East London quite often, although trawling through car boot, garage, jumble and opportunity shops can yeild quite a haul.

Incidentaly, I wanted to buy some playing spoons, a long time ago, and went around my local market, testing them out. Found that the plated nickel silver was best, but the very shiny modern versions of the good old fashioned turn of the century table spoon were very tinny and flat sounding. Drove two stall holders barmy and ended up having an impromptu concert with the third!!

Why play a washboard?

They double as great kevlar vests when the audience realise you're the band, not the laundry!!

Also, go for oldfashioned metal thimbles, not tailors thimbles (no tops to them), and try not to get the really shiny ones, for reasons, see spoons above. Besides, after a few hours bashing, the plate comes off and they turn your fingers green.

If you have a salsa band near you, talk to them about where they got their instruments from, because there is now available a fairly passable purpose built wavy bit of metal on a shoulder harness. Worn like a breastplate, it means you can march, drink your beer, fend off the audience, scratch, pick your nose, anything else, without the whole kit and caboodle falling to the ground.

LTS


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Subject: RE: BS: Washboards
From: Mike Billo
Date: 05 Nov 99 - 12:59 PM

I maintain a "Spoons, Bones and Washboard" percussion site at

http://www.homestead.com/oldmusic/MusicalSpoons.html

so there are those of us who don't play the bodhran. The old brass jobs are the Holy Grail of washboards, but hard to find. Be sure to steer clear od aluminum because studies have suggested that exposure may be a factor in Altzheimers disease.

The Columbus Washboard Company http://www.columbuswashboard.com/index.html

is planning to release a model designed to be a primarily a musical instrument


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Subject: RE: BS: Washboards
From: Bert
Date: 05 Nov 99 - 01:02 PM

....Be sure to steer clear of aluminum because studies have suggested that exposure may be a factor in Altzheimers disease....and I thought that all washboard players were like that.


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Subject: RE: BS: Washboards
From: Bill cameron
Date: 05 Nov 99 - 03:54 PM

Well the idea is not to eat off them Bert...

Don't know of too many washboard virtuosos, or even players. Just Washboard Hank, whom all Ontario catters probably know. He's currently doing his unique (highly customized board) thing as a full-time member of Fred Eaglesmiths band, getting mixed reviews since Fred isn't a jug band, kids or novelty act and you know how seriously some folks take this kind of stuff. (Careers, "good taste", things like that). But hey, if you see him ,ask him what brand he uses!

And tell him I said hi!

Bill


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Subject: RE: BS: Washboards
From: Chet W.
Date: 05 Nov 99 - 03:55 PM

I have several washboards, mostly from flea markets and such. My first one I began adding things to it ( a small saucepan, a doorbell, a rack for duck calls, slide whistles, etc., an old brass car horn blown with a foot pump, and finally two smaller washboards bought at the hardware store, each with their own attachments, until the thing got too heavy to play. Now I most carry around my old brass one with no attachments, but I did invent a pretty cool way of playing it. I got some old cotton gloves and cut out the fingers, but not the thumbs. On the glove thumbs I attached small (3/4 inch) maple balls, and put steel fingerpicks turned backwards on three fingers of each hand. The picks do most of the rubbing, and the maple balls make great little accented beats here and there, either on the metal or the frame. The best washboard player I ever saw was in a dixieland band in Prague, Czech Republic, who played it flat on his lap with drum brushes. He also had a snare drum and a ride cymbal for variety. I'd like to try one of the rubboards that hang around your neck, but haven't yet. I think washboards are underappreciated.

Chet


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Subject: RE: BS: Washboards
From: Mike Billo
Date: 05 Nov 99 - 09:20 PM

Greatest washboard vituosi? Rick Reynolds(Zazu Pitts' grandson!) of the Rhythm Rascals the best ever. Hezzie Trietsch of the Hoosier Hot Shots, Spike, Jones, Pete Devine of Bo Grumpus.

Congrats to Fred Eaglesmith for having the courage to break boundaries and hire a washboard player.


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Subject: RE: BS: Washboards
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 05 Nov 99 - 10:46 PM

God bless you for mentioning Hezzie, Mike. But for pure "swing" give me Washboard Sam any day! MMMboy! I love that man's music.
Rick


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Subject: RE: BS: Washboards
From: Margo
Date: 05 Nov 99 - 11:00 PM

I had never actually seen anyone play a washboard until a couple of weeks ago when Jack and I went to see Mark Graham and Orville Johnson. Orville played the washboard, and I was very impressed! I have to exert some self control, though. I have been buying instruments that I want to play, and I have my plate full right now. But certainly, down the road........Margo


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Subject: RE: BS: Washboards
From: Mike Billo
Date: 06 Nov 99 - 01:15 AM

Margarita; Was Orville playing that metal monstrositie that looked like it had been ground zero at a nuclear test site? I LOVE that washboard! What a great duo he and Mark Graham are!


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Subject: RE: BS: Washboards
From: reggie miles
Date: 06 Nov 99 - 03:48 AM

That Orville, he can play just about anything. We worked together in a jug band called Strangers With Candy for about ten years. I was primarily the washboardist and Orville, Mr. Jug and I shared the singing. Since the demise of that group I've been the lone stranger, so to speak, a washboard without a jug band. (Orville's kind of busy playin' with Mark and others.) There are times when I've managed to scare some of the remnants of jug bandlry here in the Northwest out of the woodwork to have some fun but it's not an easy task. I've been working with Jack Cook lately and he backs me with his guitar whilst I sing and play my varied implements.

It's not impossible to find washboards new and they don't cost an apendage either. As was previously stated it may take some poking around. As for the relative rarity of finding others that enjoy banging the board, if you check the web at www.washboard.com you'll be as surprised as I was to see there are more of us than you may have guessed. If that address is incorrect ask Mike Billo for directions to the site.

I play a brass board myself and have since I began playing about 22 years ago. I found the extra weight from adding too many great effects to my board was difficult to deal with as well so instead of carrying my board around my neck I've added a telescoping leg. It becomes quite a challenge to mount and place everything where it can be reached easily during the course of a song. It becomes an exercise in ergonomic design. Washboard Jackson, a friend I met while playing in the New Orleans area, plays his board using two wire haired brushes. I've been working with a brush in my right hand ever since. I still wear thimbles too. I like old solid nickel thimbles, once again they're kind of hard to locate and you may have to pay antique prices but they wear well and if you play a lot it's worth the extra expense. Washboard Leo, (local washboard god of the deep south), has elongated, curved, thimble-like claws custom made that his fingers fit into that are tipped with brass globs. He's a monstrous player, heavy handed, and claimed that he has to get the brass on the tips replaced as it wears out. My board has a harmonica rack on top too so I'm usually doing double duty with harp solos as well as singing, percussion and sound effects. Or is that quadriple duty? I've got three temple blocks (wood tones), two cow bells (the real kind), a fourteen inch Zenjian (not Ziljian) cymbal, two train whistles and I'd like to add a couple more, a siren and a slide whistle and last but not least a duck call. Where are the bulb horns you ask? I'm working on it! One is only limited by his or her own imagination when it comes to the design aspects of this sort of an instrument. I've seen quite a few. All have been different, unique to the maker.

Scrubbin' on the darn ol' thang, reggie


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Subject: RE: BS: Washboards
From: katlaughing
Date: 06 Nov 99 - 03:54 AM

I can't find it at their website or in the holiday catalogue I have handy, but The Vermont Country Store has tons of old fashioned goods, including the 1920's chewy caramels known as Walmettos; real Yorkshire Gold Tea; Lemon Curd, as well as hurricane lamps, bunches of maple sugar producst, an old fashioned wooden phonograph record player, cotton longjohns and slips, household products and other hard to find stuff, inluding WASHBOARDS! I KNOW BECAUSE I REMEMBER SEEING THEM IN AN EARLIER CATALOGUE!

You can request a catalogue online (they just have a few items available to look at on line) or you can call them at 802-362-8440 or fax at 802-362-0285. Their catalogue is fun just to have to browse through - well worth the call.

kat


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Subject: RE: BS: Washboards
From: Mike Billo
Date: 06 Nov 99 - 10:42 AM

The Washboards International site (www.washboards.com)Reggie mentions, has been off-line for quite some time now. However, interested folks should keep trying since I'm hoping it will reappear. Like Reggie, I too have a harmonica rack mounted on my washboard, with a configuration of rubber bands that hold a kazoo as well. At one time,I had a lot of attachments, but realized that my playing had become a series of annoying sound effects (which is the fault of my playing, not of the attachments) I just yielded to the temptation of playing them all the time. And I'm sure there are plenty of folks who would still say my playing is a series of annoying sound effects. Today, I just have the washboard and the harmonica rack. If you can ever find any old recordings that have a washboardist named Eddie Edinborough (active in the 20's, played with Elmer Snowden and Leecan and Cooksey)check 'em out! What an unsung hero!


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Subject: RE: BS: Washboards
From: Margo
Date: 06 Nov 99 - 11:51 AM

Yes, Orville had two cow bells too! He also played on the wooden part at the end. He used thimbles on all fingers. At first I got a chuckle because of the way it looked. But when he started playing, I was amazed.

Mark Graham writes some funny songs, like Oedipus Rex; "Oedipus Rex, Oedipus Rex, another song about violence and sex! He murdered his pa and married his ma, they don't even do that in Arkansas!" Funny funny funny. I like the bluegrass version of Moby Dick. Mark Graham is out of Seattle. If anyone wants more info I'll be glad to oblige....

Margo


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Subject: RE: BS: Washboards
From: reggie miles
Date: 06 Nov 99 - 12:00 PM

I'll have to agree with Mike. The challenge becomes knowing when and when not to play with all the fun stuff that accumulates on the crazy thing, gizmo or whatchamacallit. There's a time and place for it all, usually not all at once. In the course of an evening I may only use my effects as in between song attention getters but should the unfortunate string breakage occur, look out, it's washboard solo time. I get the chance to introduce and demonstrate all the weird stuff, just until the guitarist manages to finish changing his string. There are many songs that seem to demand a zany accent or two but like anything it takes practice to get it right. I draw my inspirations from the past masters, Hezzie of course and Spike, Captain Stubby (from the Bucaneers) etc. After a while one developes an ear for the holes. It also becomes a visually stimulating experience for audiences to enjoy. Guitars they've seen but bring a washboard up on stage with alot of whosits and whatsits all over it and all of a sudden there's an air of expectation in the audience as if they're waiting to see what you can do with it all. It's great fun.


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Subject: RE: BS: Washboards
From: Jack Hickman - Kingston, ON
Date: 06 Nov 99 - 04:51 PM

Greetings, All

Some years ago, I belonged to a group in Kingston called the Soup Kitchen Symphony. Although there were some good musicians in the group, the name seemed to be a magnet for every musical wierdo in the area. One of them had put together a washboard with the damnedest combination of sound effects you have ever seen or heard.

On rare occasions he would let me play his washboard, and I found that 25 cent pieces worked as well as anything to get sound out of it. That was before the Canadian $1 coin became prevalent, and I'm sure if I had a chance at a washboard now, I could make some beautiful music with a "loonie." For those incognoscenti, that is the nickname adapted for the $1 coin.

Jack Hickman


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Subject: RE: BS: Washboards
From: MandolinPaul
Date: 06 Nov 99 - 05:04 PM

Bill, I used to go see Washboard Hank & The Honkers play at the Red Dog Tavern in Peterborough, Ontario, every Wednesday night, in the early 90's. A truly dynamic showman! And the Honkers were a great bunch of musicians. I saw Hank backing Eaglesmith at the Ottawa folk festival a year ago, and nothing much has changed.


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Subject: RE: BS: Washboards
From: Mbo
Date: 06 Nov 99 - 06:04 PM

Margarita, I like that one about Oedipus Rex! As a fan of Greek dramas, I'd like to hear the rest of the lyrics! Is he working on one called "Medea"? How about "Antigone"? Just a thought.

--Mbo


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Subject: RE: BS: Washboards
From: Sue
Date: 06 Nov 99 - 08:44 PM

Hey! There is hope for all you aspiring washboard players. Get your new washboards from the Columbus Washboard company. Try http://www.columbuswashboard.com. (me personally, I play an antique board that I've customed out. Still has soap skum though)


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Subject: RE: BS: Washboards
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 07 Nov 99 - 12:01 PM

I saw a video a few weeks ago with a truly bizarre little scene. There were about a dozen 5 minute clips of various American (and Cuban) folk bands, and I think it was part of a late 1920s newsreel film. In one of the clips, an overworked black woman carrying a huge bundle of laundry hunts around for her missing washboard. She finds it and proceeds to scrub, scrub, scrub.
The scene shifts to a later time. A couple of black guys with guitar and jug in tow are sitting on a hay bale. A third comes sauntering up carrying the aforementioned washboard. He decries: "Would you believe it boys! That woman of mine has been usin' my INSTRUMENT to wash clothes with!
He then plops himself down and the three of them start playing a tune. Just seemed totally bizarre.
Rick


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Subject: RE: BS: Washboards
From: Mike Billo
Date: 07 Nov 99 - 07:55 PM

That's a GREAT video Rick! I've seen it. The washboard player is Eddie Cook. A very entertaining fellow. His picture (unidentified and uncredited) also appears on the cover of Columbia Roots n' Blues "Good Time Blues".


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Subject: RE: BS: Washboards
From: catspaw49
Date: 07 Nov 99 - 08:46 PM

Great Keericed...I see I've been wasting my time on that Rosewood thread!!! This is a lot more entertaining....and I'm once again amazed at the 'Cat...but more so at the net...Washboards Intl.??? I can't wait til its back up. And Kat...I can't remember the joint right here in Ahia that caters to the Amish trade, but is now going gangbusters from Y2K junkies....Anyway, they have a complete LINE of washboards.

Am I the only one who wants to find those Spoon and Saw threads and refresh them now so all of this is running together. New visitor checks in and goes, "What the...." And what was the name of that damn kazoo thread that was the origins of Cleigh O'Possum?

These threads always have the best stories don't they? And it beats the livin' daylights out of discussing "Coefficient of Dimensional Change" in wood!

Spaw


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Subject: RE: BS: Washboards
From: bassen
Date: 08 Nov 99 - 03:37 AM

My museum is considering taking over a one-man washboard intact and operable (really!). So if all commercial sources dry up in the future, let us know. Probably not be commercially viable to export washboards from Norway to North America, but on the other hand, you could order custom made, brass and rosewood models, not to mention lefthanded and ambidextrous ...

bassen


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Subject: RE: BS: Washboards
From: Roger the skiffler
Date: 08 Nov 99 - 03:49 AM

Amazing response to this, thanks to everyone, it seems the washboard is alive and well, at least in the US.
The late British comic actor, Deryck Guyler used to have one mounted on a trolley with the usual accessories (cowbells, car horns, cymbal) and occasionally guested with the Spinners.
I've also seen a sort of breastplate version for a marching band.
RtS


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Subject: RE: BS: Washboards
From: Marc
Date: 08 Nov 99 - 07:42 AM

Wow! Thanks alot. I've been playing rubboard in a Northeast Zydeco Band for about 12 years, and have been looking for a washboard for small acoustic gigs and recording. My washboard disappeared at a festival years ago. Now I have an idea were to go to replace it.

Marc


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Subject: RE: BS: Washboards
From: reggie miles
Date: 08 Nov 99 - 08:44 AM

Regarding this thread title, isn't the prefix (BS) meant to delineste non-musical threads? I don't think anyone here is trying to say that washboard playing is a non-musical activity. NOI, I just now noticed.


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Subject: RE: BS: Washboards
From: Roger the skiffler
Date: 08 Nov 99 - 09:10 AM

Well,Reggie, anything I contribute to the Mudcat is llikely to be BS, and no-one has ever accused me of being musical!
RtS


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Subject: RE: BS: Washboards
From: reggie miles
Date: 09 Nov 99 - 03:34 AM

Well Mike and Roger I too still consider myself a pre-cussionist having no formal training in the art but that didn't stop me from srubbin' on the darn ol' thang for the last 20 years.


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