“Mister Shade! Mister Shade, sir!” The kid called out as Will Shade and the Memphis Jug Band walked toward Beale to play a gig.
After two blocks, Shade had finally had enough.
“What the hell, boy? What do you want?” Shade barked out at what he could now see to be not a teenager, but a slight man in his early twenties.
“To play with you, sir, in your jug band.” He replied, sending the other three members of the of the band into a fit of hysterical laughter.
Shade shook his head and sighed. “Alright, then. What’d you play, kid?”
“Kazoo.” The kid said, without batting an eye.
“A ka-what? What the hell is that?” Shade asked with a confused look on his face.
To which the kid responded by pulling out a round thing a bit longer than a man’s finger. Then, without prompting, proceeded to buzz the entirety of “Beale Street Blues” through it.
Which caused them to laugh harder.
“That sounds like a fly with a terrible bit of gas.” Shade frowned.
The kid let out a bit of a whimper.
“But then, the jug sounds like a farting hippo. Let’s give you a shot.”
In the 1920s, while the rest of the country was enamored with jazz, Memphis had a thing for jug bands, and none were bigger than Will Shade’s rotating group of musicians named the Memphis Jug Band. With a line up that changed daily, the Jug Band was known to busk in Church Park by day, then play high society parties at night. Before the jug band fad dissipated with the onset of the Great Depression, the Memphis Jug Band had recorded near a hundred songs and is considered the best example of the genre – even with the kazoo.