Joe Birl is a founding member of the Rhythm Bones Society, and you can read a story about him in on-line newsletter, RBP, Vol 6, No 3. In 1945, Joe decided to patent a black plastic rhythm bone that he had designed and made to solve the problem of bones slipping out of his fingers. The unique feature was a grove at the top of the bones that locked the bones into the hand.
The story of how Joe patented these bones was told in a presentation he made at Bones Fest III. While it contains some routine aspects of the process, it also has some intersting and amusing parts. Click HERE to read about it.
Before Joe made his presentation, Irish bones player and Founding member, Mel Mercier, performed for the attendees. During his introduction, he noted that his favorite bones were a real animal bone played with a black plastic bone, but he had broken all of his plastic bones so was playing with a substitue. To Mel's surprise as well as the attendees, Joe was sitting about four feet from Mel, and introduced himself as the maker of those bones. Mel went back to Ireland with a dozen new pair.
Another performer who played and recorded with Joe's rhythm bones was old time bluesman JC Burris. He called them his African rhythm bones. To see him play 'Highway Blues' click HERE.
The original black plastic bones with the trademark 'Rhythm Bones' are no longer made, but Joe says maybe as many as 150,000 were made. They show up occasionally for sale on Ebay. Joe is making similiar, slightly larger wooden rhythm bones, but still with the patented grove (shown in the photograph at top of this page.) It is with Joe's permission that we use his trademark in our name, The Rhythm Bones Society.