Friday Five: Songs About Prohibition
On this date back in 1933, the Blaine Act was passed, initiating the repeal of the prohibition of alcohol by the United States Government. From 1920 to 1933, the United States population had to either be dry or find their spirits through underhanded means. Big cities had big crime syndicates take the lead and quench the thirst of folks in all kinds of backdoor barrooms. Out in the countryside, home distilleries became popular (here’s a moonshine playlist from The 9513 archives). As Discovery Channel’s Moonshiners rakes in big viewers this season, it’s clear that this tradition is still continuing today in the rolling hills of the Smoky Mountains and beyond. This Friday, we thank Wisconsin Senator John J. Blaine, the man who made it easier for us to get lit 79 years ago today, with a little playlist about Prohibition and bootleggers.
5. Billy Murray – “Alcoholic Blues (Prohibition Song)”
Billy was a vaudeville actor and singer in the first quarter of the 20th century. He sang a variety of different styles; this here is one of his comic tunes where he sings backed by an orchestra. “I’ve got the alcoholic blues/ No more beer, my heart to cheer/ Goodbye whiskey, you used to make me frisky/ So long, highball, so long, gin/ Oh, tell me when you comin’ back again.”
4. Nora Bayes – “Prohibition Blues”
Like Murray, Nora Bayes was a vaudeville singer who lamented the loss of “Old Man Alcohol.” Bayes liked to drink, evidently. Perhaps that need was caused by being married five times between 1908 and 1928.
3. Jim Jackson – “Bootlegger’s Blues”
Jim Jackson was born way back in 1884, and he became one of the earliest African-American recording stars. He covered blues, gospel, vaudeville numbers, and, as was the custom of the day, many different traditional tunes that now are most closely associated with early country music.
2. Sara Petite – “Bootleggers”
San Diego native and Americana artist Petite puts her own spin on one of the earlier forms of home delivery.
1. Lowe Stokes – “Prohibition is a Failure”
Although not one of the founding members, Stokes was a member of The Skillet Lickers, one of the earliest country bands ever recorded. And if you’re licking skillets, you probably need something strong to wash down the taste.
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