13 January 2016


Be honest. Had you ever heard of Beer Garden Blues before Tuba Skinny unearthed it and started performing it in 2015? I certainly had not.

Robin Rapuzzi told me it is a tune the band now particularly enjoys.

The music was written in 1933 by Lewis Raymond and Clarence Williams; and lyrics were contributed by Walter Bishop.

It is normally played in the key of F, but making great use of the related key of D minor. In fact, a distinctive characteristic of the song is its strong minor flavour - in both Verse and Chorus.

The Verse comprises 16 bars. The Chorus has a 32-bar A-A-B-A structure.

You can hear the original Clarence Williams recording by clicking here. Surprisingly, the band omits the Verse but works its way through the Chorus five times (thus playing 5 x 32 = 160 bars in total). Much use is made of breaks, especially on Bars 23 and 24 of every Chorus; and the third Chorus is led by the washboard, with the others providing punctuation.

Clearly, Williams treated his own music very freely when he came to perform it. And Tuba Skinny do the same, making great use of the rhythms and the harmonies, but with slightly less than scrupulous respect for the original melody. Click here for a performance by them: they play through the Chorus six times [no Verse] on lines very similar to those of the Williams recording. Beer Garden Blues as originally written (with acknowledgement for the help provided by my American correspondent Larry Smith) is believed to have gone like this: