The Museum of the Rhythm Bones Society

20th Century Rhythm Bones Players

Freeman Davis, known as 'Brother Bones, recorded during the late 1940s and 1950s. His most famous recording was 'Sweet Georgia Brown' later picked up as the theme song for the Harlem Globetrotters professional basketball team. This is one of the most played recordings, and most people do not realize that the percussion is rhythm bones. Freeman was also a terrific whistler as demonstrated on many of his recordings. Click inside the Text Box for a longer story about him.
Ted Goon, known as 'Mr Goon-Bones, was a rhythm bones recording artist in the late 1940s and 1950s. He rose to seventh on the Billboard Jukebox chart with his recording of 'Ain't She Sweet,' and made 35 records in his career. He also made rhythm bones called Goon-Bones and sold over 20,000. One of his last records was 'Tiger Rag' which he made to challenge rhythm bones players of the future. He spent 40 hours arranging some of his songs. Late in his career he formed a trio and went on the road to perform. RBS remembered Ted in a Portfolio of his recordings and memorabilia. Click inside this Text Box to view.
Peadar Mercier was the bodhrán and bones player with The Chieftains from 1966 to 1976. He was also a member of Seán Ó Riada’s group Ceoltóiri Cualainn. When Peadar began to play the bodhrán and bones he was already in his late 40s. When he first took up the bodhrán, in the late 1950s, the goatskin frame drum was hardly considered to be a musical instrument, and the bones were rarely heard in Ireland. The musical status of the bodhrán and bones was elevated considerably in the early 1960s, when the Irish composer and performer Seán Ó Riada included the instruments in his newly formed, groundbreaking ensemble Ceoltóiri Cualainn. In 1974, at the age of 60, eight years after he joined the Chieftains as a part time musician, Peadar left his job as a building supplies store manager with a Dublin building firm to embark on an international career with the group, as the first ever Irish professional bodhrán and bones player. Peadar played with the Chieftains for ten years, recorded 4 LPs with the group, and performed on stages across Ireland, the UK, Europe and America. Many who heard him play on recordings or who saw him perform live were inspired to take up the bodhrán and bones. Peadar had ten children. He taught his son Mel to play the bodhrán and the bones, and the instruments have been at the heart of Mel’s musical life ever since. Throughout the 1980s, Peadar and Mel performed with the influential American composer, John Cage, and the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, in Cage’s monumental piece Roaratorio: An Irish Circus on Finnegan’s Wake. Peadar was also a poet and a gardener. He was born Herbert Peter Mercier in Cork, Ireland, in 1914. He died in 1991, at the age of 76. Mel Mercier
 Radio Documentary In 2016, Mel made a radio documentary about his father for the Irish national radio station RTÉ. The documentary is available for download or click HERE to listen to it.
Percy Danforth was a rhythm bones legend during the latter decades of the 20th century. He was a gifted rhythm bones player and spread the word at many festivals and events, and had an early rhythm bones instructional book and later instructional video used by many to learn to play (still being sold today). The Rhythm Bones Society has remembered him in Rhythm Bones Player newsletter articles and in a Portfolio of his Memorabilia that is on our website (Click inside Text Box to view).
Erik Ilott entertained as "The Bristol Shantyman. He had one record titled Shipshape and Bristol Fashion' Sea Songs with a 24 page set of liner notes that accompanied the LP album. This is a magnificent document with all sorts of detail about sailing and ships including photographs and drawings. Click on Erik's photograph to see some of that. Click HERE to read more about him.
JC Burris is the nephew of Sonny Terry, one of the great old time blues artists. JC said he played 'African Rhythm Bones' but in fact they were Joe Birl's black plastic rhythm bones. As shown, he played harmonica and bones at the same time, and his bones solos are among the best recorded. He had one solo CD titled 'The Blues Professor' that has two of those solo recordings.
John Henry 'Bones' Nobles was a legend in Beaumont and around the state of Texas. He played with the likes of Gatemouth Brown and Clifton Chenier. He appeared in three films, and one titled Bones is a documentary about him. He was profiled on the Real People television program and by Charles Kuralt in one of his On the Road television segments.
Cecil Hiatt was born in 1912 near Braman, Oklahoma, and spent most of his life there working on the farm. He first saw the bones at a Medicine Show when he was 5 years old, became so fascinated he went home and made two pairs out of lath boards. Music was one of the only forms of entertainment, and Cecil played most Saturday nights for parties and dances. He played often with his neighbors, the Berlines, which included Byron who went on to become one of the most sought after studio fiddlers in Nashville. Cecil earned a reputation around the state for his bone playing, and was soon dubed, "Oklahoma bones". In the mid 80's he recorded "Cecil Hiatt" on Double stop records, and was accompanied by some of the finest bluegrass muscians, including: Byron Berline, Dan Crary, and John Hickman. He was the primary influence on bone player Barry Patton. Barry Patton
John Alden Burrill aka Mr. Bones of Boston played in and around the Boston area from the mid 70's up until his death in 1992. He was a well known street musician who could be found most summer week end evenings jamming in Harvard Square, or at the Nameless Coffee House in Cambridge. He played with a great number of musicians as they were passing through the Boston area (see list in Newsletter article). He particularly enjoyed playing with Spider John Koerner, toured England with him, and recorded two records. A brief documentary was made of his exploits at the Cajun and Bluegrass Festival in Escoheag, Rhode Island just before his death. Steve Brown
Richard Thomas almost was a founding member of the Rhythm Bones Society. He planned on attending Bones Fest III, but health issues preventing him from that. Known as 'Mr Bones, he was a fixture in the Washington, DC music scene for at least seven decades. After recording with Archie Edwards on the Blues and Bones CD, he was a regular at Archie's Barbershop, a meeting place for local and national musicians and the Washington, DC Blues Society.
Johnny Muise was the bones connection to Nova Scotia. He grew up there and learned to play at an early age. I believe his Aunt played in the Inverness Seranaders during the 40's and 50's and they had a bones player, Huey something. Johnny came to several of my Neffa workshops but never to bones fest or regional meetings. He is on record playing with Joe Cormier, an old cape breton fiddler who lives in the Boston area. He came to Neffa the year Russ and Ev came. His daughter Rose also plays. Steve Brown