From the Record Shelves #222

The Rooster Crowing Blues

CD Yazoo 1082/

Hosea Woods sings, “I used to be a lover, baby, in my younger days. Now I’m old and feeble, but I still got my loving ways.”

With recordings like “Walk Right In,” Gus Cannon’s Jug Stompers inspired young people to years later play, sing, and listen to so-called “skiffle music.” But the originators of the music were not too young, and maybe it is more realistic to imagine them in a wild west saloon than in a jukebox joint, or ice cream parlor, or any other place where young people would hang out and listen to music in the early sixties.

Gus Cannon, who got to record four sessions for Victor in 1928 and 29, had put together a trio for the occasions. He was born in 1883, and his singing and guitar-playing friend Hosea Woods, with a background in medicine shows, was even older. So when he sings about younger days they are probably around the turn of the century. Cannon who spent much of his youth in Ripley, Mississippi, had worked as a cotton picker and farm hand and had been playing at weekend dances and entertaining at crap games for many years. The little town is not so far from Memphis, and he was often seen with the musicians that were to form the Memphis Jug Band. Inspired by their success, Cannon made a construction so that he could play banjo and jug at the same time. The third member of Cannon’s Jug Stompers was Noah Lewis, a harmonica virtuoso.

Their seemingly simple playing creates a magic atmosphere, whether they play old country songs, rags or, as here, the blues.