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Washboard Rhythm Kings

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The Washboard Rhythm Kings were a loose aggregation of jazz performers, many of high calibre, who recorded as a group for various labels between about 1930 and 1935.

The band played goodtime swinging music, featuring spirited vocals, horns, a washboard player and occasionally kazoo, and were popular around the time of the Great Depression. They mostly covered current hits from other artists.

Their personnel varied considerably between sessions, with guitarist Teddy Bunn the most regular member. On a 1930 session with singer, vaudevillian and novelty clarinettist Wilton Crawley, the group included trumpeter Henry “Red” Allen, pianist Jelly Roll Morton, saxophonist Charlie Holmes and washboard player Bruce Johnson, many of whom had previously worked together in the Luis Russell orchestra. Later recordings included singers Leo Watson or Steve Washington, trumpeters Valaida Snow and Taft Jordan, and clarinettist Ben Smith[1].

Their 1932 recording of “Tiger Rag” has been cited for its “wild, informal feel” as an early precursor of rock and roll - see “First rock and roll record”. Their music was also highly influential on the skiffle music of the 1950s and later.

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