[Dixielandjazz] One for Brother Gunter

Bill Haesler bhaesler at bigpond.net.au
Mon Nov 6 16:22:30 PST 2006

Dear Bill and Ron,
Since the late 1930s Australian jazzmen have always played the washboard
sitting across the knees and, as there were no available photographs of
washboard bands playing rather than posing, this seemed to be the most
logical position at the time. A simple extension of the drum kit.
Australian cornet player, Roger Bell (Graeme's brother) was also a fine
washboard player and he and record collector, jazz writer, record producer
William H  'Bill' Miller were among the first to play it this way. By
example, it was passed on to all who followed, including the great Lem
Roger was regularly featured on washboard with the Graeme Bell band
'backroom' contingent on its two triumphant tours of Europe and the UK in
1947-48 and 1950-52, and this too would have influenced others 'over there'.
Yes, I am indeed claiming the 'horizontal' set-up as an OZ original!
Australians only discovered the 'American' vertical method much later and
some now use this position for stage performances. But it is an exemption
here, rather that the rule.
If the washboard is to be played as it was originally meant to be - strictly
as a rhythm instrument - then the horizontal position gives much better
control, particularly on a regular job, or for recording.
If is it for novelty effect only (as many American players seem to prefer),
then the vertical method allows for some showing off, and a few dance steps
and other excesses to be included in the performance.
Beryl Bryden, a dear old mate, was primarily a singer, so hung the washboard
around her neck for occasional use. A European fan eventually made her a
pocket-sized, folding model which she used on stage in her latter years.
Kind regards,

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