Blues 'N Bones
Archie Edwards, master of Piedmont Blues
With Richard "Mr. Bones" Thomas
Grab Your Bones and Play Along With The Blues
As Archie put it, "I play what they call the old Piedmont style, but I call it East Virginia blues 'cause that's where I learned it." I'm entranced by his amiable, sitting-on-the-porch vocals and his relaxed steel and slide guitars. Archie's sound is raw blues mixed with country, ragtime and spirituals - all heavily influenced by his teacher, Mississippi John Hurt. Songs like "Payday", "John Henry" and "That Won't Do" are captivatingly simple and uncluttered. You can hear the incredibly rich detail of Archie's finger-pickin' and the authentic rapid-fire clack of Mr. Bones' rib bone percussion. Mark Wenner, leader of the Nighthawks, sits in on harmonica for a few songs too.
Richard "Mr. Bones" Thomas
I saw Richard Thomas play live with Archie Edwards at a cozy Focal Point concert, here in Saint Louis in 1996.
After the concert we talked quite a bit about bones. He really appreciated my observation that it's difficult to play slow tempos. We were soon surrounded by a small entourage listening to us talk shop. So on and on Richard Thomas and I kept yakking about bones.
Archie was a bit chagrined as he kept asking my opinion about particular tunes he played that night, and I had to tell him that I'm sure they were wonderful, but I really don't know anything about Blues and, well...I was here to see the bones player. Eventually Richard Thomas and I made our way outside where we continued chatting in the parking lot.
Some Facts About His Bone Playing Technique
been a few years ago, so the only facts about his playing technique I
can share with you are that he played four cow rib bones (two in each
hand) while seated.
We also checked out each others bones. At
the time I was carrying my favorite set of Lark In The Morning "bone
bones." These are the kind that look like ivory but are made from cow
shins. Richard Thomas wondered how I was able to play them as they are
so thin. I would characterize his set as big heavy clunky cow ribs.
Grace and Style
Thomas displays a graceful style that evokes his own unique
personality. And his Focal Point performance made an indelible
impression on me. It took quite a few years for this to evolve, but I
am delighted to report that some elements of his style have indeed
rubbed off on me - at least when I play challenging slow tempo tunes.
Archie Edwards Blues Heritage Foundation
Archie and Richard Thomas are both gone now. But you can jam with first-rate blues musicians at the Archie Edwards Blues Heritage Foundation. Keep in mind, if you visit, that one bone player is usually more than enough. The foundation was located at Archie's former barber shop in Washington, DC for over a decade. The Saturday jam has now relocated to the HR-57-Center for the Preservation of Jazz and Blues.
A few years ago I played a set on stage with a steamin' Delta Blues player from Chicago named "Diamond" Jim Greene. As it turned out, Diamond Jim learned from Archie Edwards years ago at his Washington DC barber shop. I might note that I played big heavy clunky cow ribs (similar to those of Richard Thomas) on one tune - and we got a standing ovation. (Of course Jim's stellar performance may have had something to do with it).
So get out a set or two of big clunky rib bones and enjoy this rare vintage Blues 'N Bones CD by Archie Edwards and Richard Thomas. You will be glad you did.
Excellent Play-Along CD
Look what's on the CD:
John Henry* 4:16
Meet Me In The Bottom 4:32
I Called My Baby Long Distance# 3:34
That Won't Do* 3:30
My Old School Mates#* 5:24
Hen's Cackle* 2:02
Saturday Night Hop# 3:50
Baby, Please Gimme A Break#* 3:34
T For Texas 3:45
10. Sitting On Top Of The World 4:10
11. Payday* 3:15
12. Take Me Back Baby 3:37
13. Little Girl#* 3:37
#Originals by Archie Edwards
*Richard Thomas on bones
Archie Edwards, Vocals, Guitar, Ukele and vocals
Richard Thomas, Bones
Mark Wenner, Harmonica
Vernel Fournier, Drums
Click "The Inside Story..." tab above for behind-the-scenes information you are not likely to find any place else.
Who is Richard "Mr. Bones" Thomas?
From the Archie Edwards Blues Heritage Foundation...
Richard "Mr. Bones" Thomas (at 80th birthday)
Richard "Mr. Bones" Thomas, 1922 - 2002
A fixture in the Washington music scene for at least seven decades, Mr. Bones was born in Pomonky, MD July 30, 1922 and was raised in Washington, DC from the age of six months.
Developing an interest in the bones at the age of six, after seeing a vaudeville performance by Sammy Davis Jr., his uncle and his father at a train station, he crafted his first set of bones from a cigar box. He then began fashioning them from wood and finally settled upon 6 to 7 inch beef rib bones (a process that takes approximately nine months).
During World War II he was drafted into the Army and was a member of the famous Red Ball Express. During the war he earned four Battle Stars. After the war worked a series of jobs in both the private and public sector until his retirement.
Mr. Bones met Archie Edwards at the recording of "Blues and Bones." After the recording they performed at the Chicago Blues Festival, and in 1997 they performed at the St. Louis Blues Festival.
Along with other Barbershop members, Mr. Bones has been a hit at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, the Bull Durham Blues Festival, Blues in the Burg (where he was a featured performer), the DC Blues Society Festival and various local festivals. He has also performed community service benefit shows at hospitals, schools and civic events.
Mr. Bones's percussion, which sounds similar to castinets and tap drums, can be heard on "Blues and Bones" with Archie Edwards. He also recorded with Michael Roach on the CDs "Ain't Got No Home" and "The Blinds of Life."
Mr. Bones's craft was compatible with most, if not all, musical genres, including blues, jazz, folk, latin, etc. He had a delightful personality and was always a crowd favorite.
He will be sadly missed by everyone who knew him.