VOL. 45 | NO. 12 | Friday, March 19, 2021
Tennessee lawmakers, for all their zeal to create official state whatevers, have by some means uncared for an apparent class: A state musical instrument.
Disgrace on them.
“Nation, bluegrass, blues, Southern gospel and rock ’n’ roll all hint their roots on to the Volunteer State,” the Tennessee Historic Society states.
Strikes are afoot this session to pick a tenth state track and a fourth state poem, together with but extra (misguided) efforts to make the Bible the official state e book and ladder the state instrument. However nada for a musical instrument. Zip.
With the assistance of certainly one of my musical heroes, I suggest a treatment for this obtrusive oversight.
Granted, not many states have seen match to designate official devices. However some have designated two. Hawaii, as an illustration, chosen each the ukulele, as a contemporary instance, and the pahu, a kind of Polynesian drum, as conventional.
Kentucky selected the Appalachian dulcimer and the “Mighty Wurlitzer” pipe organ. Dulcimer, OK, I get it. However pipe organ?
Oklahoma has each the fiddle, for music, and drum, for percussion. The fiddle can also be the selection for South Dakota, Missouri and Arkansas, which makes it the front-runner. It’s maybe telling that no state has chosen the violin.
Two states, Texas and New Mexico, picked guitars. Louisiana chosen the diatonic accordion, generally referred to as the “Cajun” accordion. As a zydeco fan, I applaud this.
And I’d usually, at this level, recommend some becoming prospects for Tennessee lawmakers to contemplate. The catch is that I’ve zero expertise with musical devices. My spouse reckons me as a greater than honest whistler, however I don’t assume puckered lips qualify.
And so I turned to an skilled for recommendation, musical hero Invoice Steber.
Full disclosure: Invoice can also be fairly a famous photographer. Years in the past, as Tennessean staffers, he and I chronicled the scenic wonders of the Natchez Hint and the musical points of interest of Branson, Missouri, amongst different collaborations. However our newer relationship has been as performer (him) and viewers (me).
I requested him to explain his musical type.
“Acoustically with the Jake Leg Stompers, I play Hen-fried, pre-war, hokum-billy jug band music, which is to say, something we wish to as long as it was recorded earlier than WWII,” he responded by way of e-mail.
“Electrically with the Hoodoo Males,” his different musical group, “I play Mississippi to Memphis ’Lectrified Bacon Grease Corn Liquor Butt Shaking Gonna Boogie Until The Police Come Pork Chop Samich & a Aspect Of Hog Maws with Scorching Sauce Juke Joint Blues,” he wrote.
Invoice truly wrote all the pieces beginning with “Mississippi” as one phrase. He’s not certain by typical guidelines.
As to devices, he lays declare to enjoying with “a modicum of proficiency” the harmonica, guitar, ukulele, noticed, Diddley bow and kazoo. Others, “to a extra restricted diploma of proficiency,” embody mandolin, tenor banjo, dulcimer, jug, autoharp and nostril whistle.
I believed possibly he’d made up Diddley bow and nostril whistle. He didn’t. He additionally allowed that there could be others he was forgetting. Among the many devices that he doesn’t play however needs he might are clawhammer banjo, fiddle, piano and trombone.
I requested about his favourite instrument to play, and why.
“Ukulele,” he stated, “as a result of it’s exhausting to not be in a superb temper enjoying the uke. It’s a humble instrument, simple to study, with a stunning versatility and musical energy regardless of its popularity as a novelty instrument.
“In the event you ask anybody of my era to call a ukulele participant,” he went on, “they in all probability can’t identify anybody aside from Tiny Tim (a deeply underappreciated artist, in actual fact). There’s not a variety of expectation for severe music being created on a ukulele, nevertheless it’s the important thing to a lot nice early twentieth century pop and jazz music.”
Private choice apart, the ukulele isn’t his alternative for what Tennessee ought to honor, nonetheless. That might be:
“Banjo, no query,” he stated. His supporting arguments:
“It’s maybe the one actually conventional American instrument. And it’s the solely instrument in American music with purely African origins that concurrently bridges the cultural and musical hole between the European (Scots/Irish) custom and the African.
“It’s a part of antebellum black plantation music, was a main instrument of minstrelsy (which is the frequent origin of each nation music and blues) and went from being a quintessentially African American instrument to being primarily related to rural white music (paddle quicker, I hear banjo music).
“And now, a youthful era of Black musicians are working exhausting to reclaim the instrument to its origins.”
Drop a “Whereas” in there every so often and, I recommend, you’ve bought the wording for a reasonably honest joint legislative decision. Get to it, lawmakers. The general public welfare requires it.
Joe Rogers is a former author for The Tennessean and editor for The New York Instances. He’s retired and residing in Nashville. He could be reached at email@example.com