CW & Mr Spoons
Saturday, June 8, 2013, 3:00pm
Woody Guthrie Stage - Cafeteria
WHAT IS "WESTERN RAGTIME GUITAR"?
I thought up the title because it sums up what I think I'm doing. "Western" as applied here means several things-a particular ragtime feel that has strong roots in western culture, the use of a National guitar-invented in Los Angeles during the late 1920s and manufactured today by National Guitar in San Luis Obispo-and a style that echoes the feel of ragtime or hot jazz as it survived in what became known as western swing.
"Ragtime" is a style of syncopated music named during the 1890s and that survived as an influence in pop and jazz music through about 1930. Ragtime's roots lie in the walk-around quadrille of the period 1845 through 1890-a social dance with march and jig sections. Beyond this, the dates for the beginning and end of "ragtime" are easier to state in a college course than to find in reality. And ragtime history is somewhat different for the guitar-where it dawns about 1915, spreads through the 1930s and is revived in the 1960s.
THE "WONDER BUCKET" CONTRAPTION-a history
CONTRAPTION or TRAP SET: A group of percussion instruments used especially in a dance or jazz band.
More than 27 million people-nearly half of the US population at the time-visited the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago. Yet most of those who attended were probably not aware that they had witnessed the birth of a new art form, which would profoundly alter the face of American popular entertainment. Itinerant musicians playing for money outside the fair and those representing "primitive" cultures along the popular Midway Plaisance had enticed the massive crowds with their snappy syncopated musical style. This irregular or "ragged" rhythm soon became known as ragtime, a musical form that evolved over time into jazz and other styles-and indeed formed the basis for much of today's popular music. Scholars agree that although syncopated music did not necessarily originate at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, it was the fair that gave the form its first large scale public exposure. Instrumentation within the newer bands remained essentially the same as the pre-ragtime orchestras; a violin (or sometimes two), a cornet or two, or perhaps a trombone, flute or clarinet and piano. But one change came along that created a distinctly different sound and signaled the beginning of a new era in popular music-the addition of a drummer. And not just a bass drum or singular snare like the military bands, the newer bands began featuring a contraption trap drum, ancestor to the modern drum kit.
By World War I drum kits were characterized by very large bold marching bass drums and many percussion items suspended on and around them, and they became a central part of jazz music . On top of the console was a "contraption" (soon shortened to "trap") tray used to hold whistles, klaxons, and cowbells.
CW Bayer and Mr. Spoons continue this type of music based on the "Wonder Bucket", an original, homemade instrument created by Mr. Spoons. The "Wonder Bucket" was designed through an evolution, beginning with a set of bones and a pair of spoons (hence the name "Mr. Spoons"). Various instruments of musical destruction were added to the repertoire-Mr. Spoons began to add sound and texture to CW's acoustic western swing finger style guitar.
Early on, as Mr. Spoons was only utilizing one hand to hold a set of spoons, he would merely pick up different implements during the song such as a bicycle bell, duck call, whizzer or slide whistle. He carried this around in a suit case, mounting the various bells and whistles along the edges of the box. But this prevented the audience from observing what he was actually doing. Wood blocks, a cymbal and cow bell were soon mounted on a conventional cymbal stand allowing Mr. Spoons greater access to these additional sounds and giving the audience a view his amazing musical dexterity and prowess. A tray was then mounted to the stand to hold the various hand held implements which he included in his repertoire.
One day while warming up for a performance, Mr. Spoons began experimenting with playing a set of spoons in each hand. He discovered that he was able to perform in this manner-allowing him the ability to utilize the implements on the cymbal stand much in the same way that a drummer uses both hand to keep the beat. It soon became apparent that in order to add to the originality of the swing and ragtime compositions of CW, that whole thing needed "a look".
In a flash of inspiration, Mr. Spoons awoke early one winter morning with the idea for a stand based on a bucket as the main support. The "Wonder Bucket" was soon plotted out and it was time to visit a supply house. Mr. Spoons visited the local hardware store, wandering the aisles, looking for the materials. He had soon constructed the "Wonder Bucket" as it is seen today.
The "Wonder Bucket" now includes 2 cowbells, 2 aluminum measuring cups, a set of 2 tone wood blocks and a single tone wood block, a school bell, a tambourine, a large gong cymbal and a crash cymbal. Also, Mr. Spoons wears a washboard tie -fashionable for all occasions and the envy of gentlemen everywhere. His tray contains a set of coconuts, rhythm bones, train whistle kazoo (for cow "moos" and a ratchet. His implements are genuine plastic wood grained spoons.. (After using silver plated spoons, wood spoons and various and sundry other spoons and table ware, Mr. Spoons deemed plastic to the sound he feels brings out the best tone and resonance.) Mr. Spoons also carries to each performance assorted shaker to allow audience participation for both young and old, male and female for any and all that care to join the raggy band. Lots of plunk and pizzaz.