Gus Cannon ("Banjo Joe") made his first
banjo when he was a child. Built it out of his mother's frying
pan. He was born in Red Banks, MS in 1883, grew up as a
sharecropper and later moved to Coahoma County and spent a lot of time
in the Clarksdale area during the period that the blues form was being
created. He began performing with Noah Lewis in 1910.
Later, Gus and Noah became the heart of Cannon’s Jug
Stompers. In it Gus played the banjo and a jug, which he wore in
a harness around his neck. The Jug Stompers was a classic, which
lasted until the depression brought it to an early end.
Gus was older than most of the street musicians in
Memphis. He lived to be 96 and was able to help establish the
origins for much of the music in the area. His own music was
pre-blues, a collection of bawdy, comic songs that grew out of the
minstrel show, medicine show and jug band format. This music has
lasting popularity, and one tune Gus wrote, Walk Right In, became a mainstay of
the folk era. It was recorded by the Rooftop Singers in 1963 and
became a #1 hit song.
The wind blows through the tall grass sounding like
rain. We set up on a road that runs alongside Old Highway 61.
It was once the railroad bed in the town of Hollywood,
Mississippi. Today, this is a recording studio for a guitar
version of Cannon's Jug Stompers’ Hollywood