The Jake Leg Stompers: A History of the Banned
“Treat Her Right” by Roy Head was the hottest song on radio on the chilly November day when Bill Steber (aka “Hambone Willie Nevil”) came into this world, humming along.
The middle school years found Hambone hiding under the covers past bedtime every Sunday night with a radio to corrupt his mind on the Doctor Demento Show with the likes of R. Crumb’s Cheap Suit Serenaders, and Harry “The Hipster” Gibson singing “Who put the Benzedrine in Mrs. Murphy’s Ovaltine?”
But it was at a party of fellow freaks at Middle TN Stare University in 1986 that an event occurred that would forever change Hambone’s life. That is when he met his future professor and musical partner, philosopher Ron Bombardi (nom de jug, “Jersey Slim Hawkins”)- a man whose mind was so powerful, so irresistible, that he could bend the forks and spoons of redneck linear thinking into budding bouquets of existential anarchy within the span a single credit-hour.
But the birth of the Boro’s greatest jug band would have to wait almost another 20 years because Jersey Slim was contractually obligated to play Irish fiddle for pints of Guinness into the 1990’s, Hambone did not yet actually know how to play more that 3 chords on guitar.
Then as middle age was breathing down his neck, Hambone ran into his old college philosophy prof., Ron Bombardi, at Uncle Dave Macon Days in July of 2004.
After helping him back up to his feet and apologizing, they formed the Jake Leg Stompers, to fulfill their lifelong dream of some day starting a jug band with the possibility of entertaining tens of people by employing their voluminous, esoteric, and commercially irrelevant musical knowledge.
They were soon joined in their quest by the fair and talented Charlee Tidrick (nom de washboard “Lucile Dupin”), a philosophy major at MTSU and fiddle fatale known for her ability to understand the speech of cats and also to render men speechless.
Being the only non-bearded member of the outfit and outfitted with a 1920’s red flapper dress and washboard, Ms. Lucile began charming audiences with her depictions of dust-bowl era blues and ballads from Bessie Smith to Maybelle Carter, earning the nicknames “siren of the Southwest” and “queen of the cowbells” with her charming West Texas drawl and nimble washboard gloves.
One day they looked up from staring into their sound holes and noticed that they had been playing with a bass player for about 3 months. He immediately introduced himself as Brandon Armstrong, but heretofore he was to be known as Junior Socrates Cottonberry.
Junior brought to the Stompers, an impressive musical curriculum vitae. Having started his musical career in utero playing polyrhythms on his mother’s rib bones, he quickly advanced to having a working knowledge of every known musical instrument as well as becoming an accomplished squirrel juggler, sideshow streaker and carnival clown.
Now at full strength and in need of an outlet of at least household current for their musical peregrinations, the Stompers recorded their first CD, “Guaranteed Absolutely Pure” for Hoodoo Records in the summer of 2005. Released to critical acclaim by all their mothers, the CD would go on to become the best selling album ever released from Bucksnort, TN.
Completely unknown to him because he was wearing dark glasses at the time, famed percussionist Sam Rorex (aka “Horatio Algernon Whiplash” but known to his probation officer only as “Noisy”.) was surreptitiously recorded for a hidden track on “Guaranteed Absolutely Pure.”
A salesman so talented he could sell condoms to imperial eunuchs, Noisy was officially asked to join the Stompers in 2006 to avoid a costly lawsuit. Noisy immediately established his jug-band street cred by being the only Stomper NOT associated with the philosophy dept. at MTSU. He did, however, have a goatee and a loud jacket with elbow patches, which was put to good use on the cover of his best seller Never Drink and Dress.
On the strength of their now impressive local following, the Stompers began playing regularly at Nashville’s famed Station Inn and creating something of a buzz on the streets of Nashville. Who are these guys? Where can I find out more about them? When are they going to pay their bar tab?
To avoid such questions, the Jake Leg Stompers increasingly started taking their Chicken-Fried Pre-war Hokum-billy Jug music on the road, playing regional festivals whether or not they were asked to. Acclaimed for their spirited, eclectic, and wildly unpredictable street performances, the Stompers were even sometimes asked to play on the stage for actual money.
In their live shows, the Jake Leg Stompers present Pre-War Roots Music on period instruments in lively, authentic styles. The Stompers capture the rebellious spirit of pre-1941 American music from Memphis Jug bands to Appalachian Hillbilly to Fats Waller when folk music was still considered dangerous.
Currently, the Stompers are cruising to stardom on the strength of their 3rd and greatest album, “Hill Country Hoodoo,” produced and recorded by Jimbo Mathus of Squirrel Nut Zippers fame at his studio in Como, MS. For this project, the Stompers were joined by Luther Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars, Jimbo Mathus, the Rising Star Fife and Drum Band, Rev. John Wilkins (son of the late blues legend Robert Wilkins) and Mississippi cum Tokyo blues artist Steve Gardner.
“Hill Country Hoodoo” has received extensive airplay on XM satellite radio and is currently a top-selling album in both the blues and folk categories on CDBaby.com.
So long as they don’t owe you money, the Jake Leg Stompers look forward to seeing you soon at a club, festival or street corner near you.