Gus Cannon & His Jug Stompers

b. 12 September 1883, Red Banks, Mississippi, USA, d. 15 October 1979, Memphis, Tennessee, USA. As a youth, Cannon was a proficient fiddler, as well as a guitarist and pianist, but his main instrument was the banjo. Cannon, whose parents had been slaves, made his first banjo at the age of 12 from a guitar neck and a bread pan. He was taught to play in Clarksdale, Mississippi, by a musician named Bud Jackson and studied other local players, such as W.C. Handy. It was as "Banjo Joe" that Cannon appeared on the "medicine shows" every summer from 1914-29, working as a farm labourer during the winter months. While in Chicago with a medicine show he recorded for Paramount in 1927, with Blind Blake on guitar. Spurred on by the 1927 success of the Memphis Jug Band, Cannon added a coal-oil can on a neck harness to his equipment, and was signed when the Victor label came to Memphis in 1928. Cannon's Jug Stompers recorded annually from 1928-30, producing some of the finest and most bluesy jug band 78s. As fashions changed, Cannon ceased playing the streets for money in 1950, but he kept in practice, and made some recordings for folklorists in 1956 and 1961. In 1963 came an unlikely moment of fame, when the Rooftop Singers had a number 1 hit with "Walk Right In", which the Stompers had recorded in 1929. He continued to make occasional recordings for friends in the 70s, though naturally, they were of diminishing liveliness. Cannon has since been considered by music historians as one of the links between pre-blues Negro folk music and the blues. The original Stax album featured Will Shade on jug, and Milton Roby (washboard) and was rumoured to have only been pressed in a quantity of 800. It was expertly remastered and reissued on CD by Ace Records in 1999.

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