Post by Joel Post by Tubaman
listener would call or write to ask about the "instrument"
listed as "Bass Cano," especially in reference to Alfred Elkins
recording with Big Joe Williams in 1941.
Ever since then I have been researching this instrument - some
musicologists (and others) say it was a very simple one-string bass
guitar (not a wash-tub bass) while others say it probably was "Vocal
Bass" sung to imitate the sound of a string bass (like the Mills
Brothers often did.)
Nobody else has tried, so I'll offer a bit of odd information that may
or may not be related. "Cano" is Latin for 'I sing'.
Well, it's actually "canto," "I sing," or "cantare," the infinitive "to
sing." I now find myself thinking of "cano" = "cane," as in the flutes
made of cane that were traditional. This doesn't help with recording,
which I haven't heard anyway, but may provide some glimmer to research.
Speaking of cane, I am similarly perplexed by the set of Clifford Hayes
(Dixieland Jug Blowers and others) recordings that feature what is
referred to as a "walking cane flute." This sounds like a wooden flute
or pipe, has a fair range, and sounds like it's played straight, not
transversely. The performer is playing hot jazz, a real virtuoso, but
I've never found out any more about it.
A while back there was discussion somewhere, and I put their 1930 "Tiger
Rag" on my Web site. Go to http://www.dwsanderson.com/music.html and
scroll down; click on the title for RealAudio playback.
East Waterford, Maine