Saturday, November 14, 2009


Long before “rhythm and blues” records replaced the use of “race records,” there was gutbucket, the kind of R&B played in dives and cheap saloons, the sort of places where you could gamble, buy hard liquor, and, if you so desired, hire a prostitute (the sort of cheap saloons that characterized New Orleans’ Storyville district). My guess is that “gutbucket” is a reference to the can (or bucket) in which customers could put money to support the musicians that played in these places. According to Ricky Riccardi, a self-proclaimed “Louis Armstrong freak,” “Gut Bucket” is a term used among the fish markets in New Orleans. According to Riccardi, “the fish cleaners keep a large bucket under the table where they clean the fish, and as they do this they rake the guts in this bucket.” After one of the historic recording sessions in 1925, Louis Armstrong was asked what name to give to song he and his Hot Five had just recorded—he said call it “Gut Bucket Blues,” a name for “low down blues.” He might also have said, “low down dirty blues.”

A washtub bass, which uses a washtub as a resonator, once was referred to as a “gutbucket”; the washtub bass was used in African American jug (folk) bands. In the 1920s and 1930s, jazz bands that played traditional (“New Orleans”) jazz referred to themselves jug bands, as for instance, with Tampa Red’s Hokum Jug Band. Bands such as Tampa Red’s often performed songs with raunchy lyrics, such as “My Daddy Rocks Me (With One Steady Roll),” one of the songs which eventually inspired the use of the term “Rock ‘n’ roll” to describe a certain form of R&B.

Some Collections of Gutbucket:
Various Artists - Risqué Rhythm: Nasty 50s R&B
Various Artists - Copulatin' Blues
Various Artists - Let Me Squeeze Your Lemon: The Ultimate Rude Blues Collection
Various Artists - Bed Spring Poker: Meat In Motion, 1926-1951
Various Artists - Eat to the Beat: The Dirtiest of them Dirty Blues

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