Dem Bones Dem Bones


We remember our fellow members and others from the last few decades who entertained us and who passed their rhythm bones knowledge on to us. The first section is RBS members. Click HERE for other rhythm bones players.

RBS Members

Shorty BouletElwin 'Shorty' Boulet of Whitfield, NH. Died on February 13, 2011. Click HERE to see his Tribute Video. The is a nice article about him in the on-line RBP, Vol 6, No 2, and an obituary written by Ernie Duffy is in RBP, Vol 13, No 1. Shorty could play a number of instruments, but his favorite was rhythm bones. He played with country & western bands thoughout New Hampshire. The high point of his musical career happened in 1999 when he was invited to play at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, DC (see the photo) where he represented NH's French heritage music.

John Cahill John Cahill of Jonesboro, GA. Died November 10, 2010. His obituary is in RBP, Vol 12, No 4. John, known as "Mr. Bones," learned to play the bones in 1950 while in high school at Boys Town, Nebraska.  He made his first pair of bones and still played them. His professional career began in 1990,  playing Bones as a street performer.  Since than he had played with "Dr. Horsehair's Old Time Minstrels", music from 1840 - 1870 (Click HERE to see one of their performances), "The Voice of the Southland Band", music from 1920-1940's (big band sound), and the "South Metro Concert Band" playing it all. He also had a "one man show" where he played  a variety of music. His favorite styles were:  Dixieland, Irish Jigs, Appalachian, Ragtime Piano, Polkas, songs from the Civil War era, Zydeco, marches and some Blue Grass. John made bones from mahogany, purple heart, ebony, iron wood and animal bones and he prefered the Shooting Star style more than the ellipse or curved bones.

Vivian CoxVivian Cox of Blue Rider, IN. Died September 10, 2004. Her obituary is in RBP, Vol 6, No 4, and there is a nice article about her in RBP, Vol 4, No 1. Vivian was one of the few full time professional rhythm bones players performing nightly at the Boggstown Inn and Cabaret. She was always full of energy and a delightful person to know.




Paul DuhonPaul Duhon of Abbeville, LA. Died in 2007. Paul Duhon, an Acadian from Louisiana, was a real treat for everyone. His brother Willie retrieved him from a nursing home just for Bones Fest III. He played pieces of leg bone of a cow, which he had cut and polished to resemble narrow piano keys. Dan Cowett accompanied Duhon on guitar. Duhon wore a long red shirt which reached his knees where a wide white belt held up little patched britches under a huge stomach. His legs looked to be only 2
ft. long. When the music started he turned on like a light bulb with hands flying, bones clicking and body swinging as he danced and played to the sound of the music.

Dan Dywer Dan Dwyer, Orange County, CA. Was killed October 14, 2003 in a motercycle accident. A tribute by his former band members is at Dan was the lead singer of The Tinker's Own, a celtic-style band in Orange County California. One day at a festival, he saw a friend clicking some sticks together. He said they were bones he had made out of teak. When Dan asked him where he could get a pair, he said he couldn't get them to work and gave me his. At that point, Dan felt somewhat committed to learning them.
After a long period of self instruction, he then whacked away on a number of jigs and reels. His favorite was "The Morning Dew" which is the lead cut on a CD, "Bending the Banshee's Ear." He was told that his style wass unique which isn't too surprising considering his teacher.

Norris Frazier Norris Frazier of Kamiah, ID. Died December 23, 2007. Click HERE to read his obituary from the RBP newsletter, Vol 10, No 3. He said, " I learned to play the bones as a young man in rural Idaho. My brother Marvin and Lyle also played. I have played throughtout the years at jam sessions and local musical events. I was introduced to playing them back in the late 30's by an uncle. Thought we had a corner on the market until I and some family members came to Louisville. What a surprise and enjoyment to see so many others and different ways to play the bones." His large family surprised him by attending Bones Fext VI, and being at the door to welcome he and his wife as they arrived.

Carl Hedrick of Fincastle, VA. Died August 19, 2005. His obituary is in RBP, Vol 7, No 3. Carl attended both Bones Fest I, II, & III. Carl was a bone-ified Professional player, performing at many local events in his area, and had the nick name "Old Bones".  He too was a wonderful story teller, and comedian! He said, "I love to see others smile.  Others in a little while, myself I always see for when I smile at others, they smile right back at me"

Will KearWill Kear of Bremo Bluff, VA. Died on March 13, 2005. His obituary is in RBP, Vol 7, No 1. Will was recruited by member John Davis, and Will and John and their wives attended most Fests together. Will learned to play the rhythm bones in 1937 from a boy from Kentucky. He loved to play to country, bluegrass and bluegrass gospel music.

MatteoMatteo of New York. Died on Thursday, March 24 at the ago of 92. Matteo was a classical dancer and castanet player who also liked rhythm bones. He attended and performed at Bones Fest III and IV, and his performances were spell binding. His monograph titled Woods That Dance includes a section on rhythm bones. It also presents the history of castanets, and the ancient part is also the history of rhythm bones. Click HERE for a nice article about him printed in the on-line newlsetter, RBP, Vol 3, No 3. Click HERE to read his obituary in the New York Times. Matteo was a founding member of the Rhythm Bones Society. Click HERE to see a short Tribute Video.

Russell B. Myers of Brightwood, VA. Died September 10, 2006. Russ was a founding member of RBS and the first Assistant Director. Click HERE to see the Russ Myers Memorial Video presented to the Madison County, VA Historical Society in a memorial service in his hometown with several RBS members in attendance. Born 27 March 1934 in Baltimore, MD. Graduated from Washington & Lee University, class of 1956, BS in Foreign Service. He first saw the bones in 1942 when his father brought a set of wooden bones home from a Washington D.C. Board of Trade lunch. He showed Russ how to hold them but said he couldn't teach Russ how to play. He bought his favorite set of ox bones from Kitt's Music Store, Washington, D.C. in 1943. At his fathers suggestion, he tried to copy the combined patterns of drummer and tuba players on Dixieland recordings. Russ played only for his own enjoyment, discovering his famous "pitch change" bit by accident in 1959. Russ made a recording for the Library of Congress in the late 1970's. A church social in the 1980's started his playing for civic organizations, etc. Russ said, "I am now considered the best bones player in south Brightwood, VA beating out stiff and heavy competition a few moments ago."

John PeronaJohn Perona of of Calumet, MI. Died February 1, 2009. His obituary was in RBS, Vol 11. No 1. Shown here playing his ringing silver spoons in rhythm bones style.






Ida Mae SchmichIda Mae Schmich of St. Louis, Mo and Pfarr, TX, died on March 16, 2011. She was active to her death, and there was a nice story about her in RBP, Vol 12, No. 4. The following is an excerpt from that story, and it tell's a lot about her. She said after a fall that broke her hip, "Let me preface this visit with telling you I'm not the ordinary 93-year old who is willing to sit in the chair and rock, she told her doctor. I square dance. I play my banjo and bones. I'm active. Now tell me what wrong and how long it's going to take to heal."


Mary SeelMary B. Seel of Birmingham, AL. Died September 28, 2009. Her obituary is in RBP, Vol 11, No 4. There is an article about her in RBP, Vol 11, No 2. Mary, with serious cancer, willed herself alive to attend Bones Fest XII where she endeered herself to all attendees. She died one month after the Fest. She said this of herself, "I am glued or screwed together because her bones did not come with connective tissue; thus she has had four back fusions, both knees replaced and both shoulders completely replaced—one in January 2007; so no wonder at almost 82 , she says her bones rattle, but it does not keep her from "playing the bones". This fascination with bones began when she was in the fourth grade and heard a fellow from Rock Hill, S.C. named Jimmy White playing the bones. She went home and carved two pairs out of flooring. From that time on, Jimmy and she would have jam sessions every summer in Montreat, N.C. She developed techniques for teaching the bones which she had fun sharing with children around the world and with Aaron Plunkett. Recently she decided to see what she could find on the Web about bones other than replacements and learned about the Rhythm Bone Society in which she become a member. She said that just buying bones for a program in April, she has met some outstanding percussionists and bone players which has been a delight and wants to express her gratitude for the warm welcome. She doesn't plan on quitting "rattling dem bones" in any rhythm any time soon."

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Other Rhythm Bones Players

Al Baker - Not yet entered.

Bud BartramBud Bartram of Stoneham, CO. Died December 24, 2004. A short obituary was in RBP, Vol 7, No 3. He was a story teller and one of the few cowboys rhythm bones players. RBS has a recording of him playing. There is a Tips & Techniques article in RBP, Vol 4, No 3, on how he made his real bone bones using the broken end of a coke bottle.

Carlton D. Bohanan. Died July 25, 2003. Carlton was a regular attendee at the National Traditional Country Music Festival in Iowa, and competed on occassion in the Bones Contest.

John BurrillJohn 'Mr Bones' Burrill of Boston, MA. Died March 1993. John was a street musician who was welcomed on any stage in Boston and many across the country. There is a long article on him in RBP newsletter, Vol 3, No 1. There is an insert to that issue that lists many of the people that John played with over the years including names like John Harford and Doc Watson.

JC BurrisJC Burris of San Francisco, CA. The nephew of Sonny Terry, Johnny "J.C." Burris was also a blues harmonica player, though he didn't record too much. He is noted for his use of African rhythm bones (that were actually made by member Joe Birl). Burris did some performing in New York in the 1950s and worked on recording sessions with Terry, Sticks McGhee, and other artists on Folkways Records. At the end of the decade, he relocated to California, finding some work in folk clubs in San Francisco before a stroke in 1966 robbed him of his use of his right side. Several years later, he regained his mobility on his right side, and in 1973, he began performing again, recording some solo unaccompanied material in 1975-1976 that appears on a video recorded by Edward Michaels ( He continued playing at schools, clubs, and festivals until his death in 1988. ~ Richie Unterberger, All Music Guide. Click HERE to see an excerpt from the Michaels video of JC singing, playing the harmonica and playing his African rhythm bones.

Percy DanforthPercy Danforth of Ann Arbor, MI. Died June 10, 1992, Percy Danforth is a rhythm bones legend and the second issue of the newsletter, RBP, Vol 2, No 1, told his story. His rhythm bones instructional materials have influenced many rhythm bones players including at least half of RBS members (click HERE to see an excerpt from his video.). He played with folk groups and symphonies and he taught people to be bone players and not bone rattlers. To watch Percy be interview by and then play with David Holt, click HERE. Webmaster, Jonathan Danforth, is his grandson, and click HERE to listen to Percy excerpts from an interview at Bones Fest IX recorded by Documentary Producer, Mary Barnett, of Chattanooga.

Len DaviesLen Davies from England. Died in July 2000. His obituary was in RBP, Vol 2, No 4. There was a remembrace by his daughter in RBP, Vol 4, No 4. His nickname was "The Bonesman" and made his own laminated plastic bones. He played on several records; one or two by Sadie Green Sales Ragtime Jugband, one by Italian Tre Martelli, one by Alias Ron Kavana, one with legendary Fairport Convention fiddler Dave Swarbrick and one with Al Svendrowski.



Brother BonesFreeman Davis known as "Brother Bones" of Long Beach, CA. Died on June 14, 1974. There is a front page article about him in RBS, Vol 4, No 3, and there is a photograph on Page 8 showing him and member Joe Birl playing bones with Joe's patented plastic bones. The RBS celebrated what would have been the 100th anniversary of his birth at Bones Fest VI. He is one of the most important rhythm bones players in history, and his recording of Sweet Georgia Brown picked up as the theme song for the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team is one of the most played records of all time (though most people don't realize the percussion is rhythm bones.). Click HERE to listen to the song.

Clif ErwinClif Ervin of Everett, WA. Died September 2008. Click HERE to see a nice story about Clif and an obituary that Scott Miller has posted on his website. There is a newspaper article about Clif reprinted from the Seattle times, Snohomish County Edition, in RBP, Vol 11, No 2. Click HERE to watch a video of Clif performing.

Charlie GinsbergCharlie 'Bones' Ginsburg of Toledo, OH. Died November 22, 2008, and his obituary was in RBP, Vol 11, No 4. Charlie learned how to play when he was eight years old and was taught by an African-American. He performed on the Hee-Haw television show, and many other venues. His passion for teaching kids lead him to create the Spoons and Bones Club for the Toledo Fulton elementary School.

Ted Goon

Ted Goon known as "Mr Goon-Bones of Long Beach, CA. Died August 3, 2003. His obituary is in RBP, Vol 6, No 2, and there are numerous articles about him in the RBP newsletter. Vol 2, No 2 has a story about him and Vol 11, No 1 has an article about a DVD that RBS produced with all of his recordings and memorabilia. (Click HERE to see that memorabilia.) Ted was a rhythm bones recording artists of the later 1940s and early 1950s and is one of the most important rhythm bones players in history. He made and sold thousands of his "Goon-Bones."

Eric IlottEric Ilott of England. Was a shantyman. See a nice story about him in RBP, Vol 13, No 1, written by a friend, Pete Hayselden (Shanty Jack.)

Cecil HiattCecil Hiatt of Kansas. Taught Barry Patton to play rhythm bones. See a story about him in on-line newsletter, RBP, Vol 5, No 3.

George Lilliard of Chattanooga, TN. Died January 5, 2005. A short obituary is in RBP, Vol 7, No 3. His neice said he always had his bones in his suitcase. He like to play to old time jazz music and did a little dance when he played them.

Johnny Muise - Not yet entered

John NoblesJohn Henry 'Bones' Nobles of Beaumont, TX. Died in 1997. There was a long article about him in RBP, Vol 10, No 1. Carol Lawrence produced a film about 'Bones' titled "Bones,' and she may release it as a DVD. In it are a couple of songs where 'Bones' plays with Taj Mahal--nice rhythm bones playing, real nice.

Richard ThomasRichard Thomas of Washington, DC. Died November 29, 2002. His obituary is in RBP, Vol 5, No 1. Known as Mr Bones, he was part of the Archie Edwards barbershop which was the meeting place of the Washington, DC Blue Society. He and Archie have a nice CD titled Blues and Bones. He had planned on attending Bones Fest III, but had to cancel due to health issue. If he had attended, he most likely would have been a founding member of RBS.

Cliff Wood Cliff Wood of England. Died September 2003 at age 103 and played bones until the last weeks of his life. There is a letter to the Editor about Cliff in RBP, Vol 3, No 3 with a longer article in that same issue talking about him playing the bones while marching during World War I (it was said it livened up some tired troups.) Cliff learned to play the bones when he was a boy. He has led an adventurous life in India and South Africa among other places. He was blinded by a gas attack in the First World War. During his later years, he lived in a special home for elderly people with sight impairment, and he entertained the residents with performances on his ebony bones, which he claims he inherited from his grandfather. Click HERE to watch a video of Cliff playing at 101 years of age.

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