The Museum of the Rhythm Bones Society

Rhythm Bones Society Players

Fred Edmunds is the grandfather of the Rhythm Bones Society. Originally a drummer, he developed a style of rhythm bones playing based on taps and created a instructional video titled "Bones Unlimited' that is now on this website. To help sell his course, he edited a newsletter that went to any rhythm bones player he could find. He talked Everett Cowett into hosting what is now called Bones Fest I in the Cowett backyard. You can view this event by returning to the Museum homepage and selecting RBS History.
Everett Cowett is the father of the Rhythm Bones Society hosting the first two Bones Fests. When he could not find rhythm bones to buy, he made his own from animal and wood materials. Ev became the first Executive Director of RBS and helped guide the new society during its first years. His daughter, Martha, developed the first rhythm bones website that was important to the success of the society.
Dr. Mel Mercier is a founding member of the Rhythm Bones Society and for many years was on the Board of Directors. Mel learned to play rhythm bones and bodhran from his father Peadar who was the first of the modern players (find Peadar on 20 Century page). Mel is a professional with a long list of performances, and has added composing to his credits. He earn his PhD with the first PhD thesis on rhythm bones based on the Mescher Tradition (see below)
Russ Myers was a terrific rhythm bones player with great timing. The Folklife Center of the Library had a project to record people to preserve their style and Russ was selected. He attended Bones Fest I and Hosted Bones Fest III where the Rhythm Bones Society was formed. He was a walking encyclopedia of rhythm bones history and gave many presentation on the subject. After he died, a memorial video was made to commemorate his life. Click the photo to view the video, and click HERE to learn more about him.
Padraig "Sport" Murphy was born in Ballaugh, Abbeyfeale, County Limerick, Ireland in the early part of the 20th century. His father who played fiddle, saw an old man playing the bones, and made some for Paddy according to the old man's specifications, when Paddy was 10. He was playing them in a week. Abbeyfeale is on the Northern edge of that musical region called "Sliabh Lurchurra" and Paddy played with many of the iconic musicians of that area including Julia, John, and Billy Clifford, and Dennis Murphy, amongst others. His playing represents the very essence of bone playing in traditional Irish music. With the bones in one hand, the other directing and accenting the music, Paddy was a sight to behold, flamboyant, and yet always sensitive to and in time with the music. He is a multiple winner of the All Ireland Bone Playing Championship, and received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the RBS. His playing can be seen on YouTube video's and heard on recordings by Bobby Gardiner, the Clare box player. Steve Brown
Barry Patton is one of the modern Ambassadors of Rhythm Bones. He is the nephew of Byron Berline whose band plays at many big time events with Barry on rhythm bones. Barry has taken rhythm bones to China and Korea and many places around the world and at home. He learned to play rhythm bones from Cecil Hyatt. He makes a unique designed rhythm bones from Osage Orange wood. To learn more about him click within this Text Box.
Dom Flemons is another of the modern Ambassadors of Rhythm Bones. He came to the attention of the world as a member of the Carolina Chocolate Drops group. They would typically play 25% of their songs with rhythm bones accompaniment. Dom left the group and went out on his own as the "American Songster."
Jerry Mescher learned to play from his father and the two performed on the Ted Mack Original Amateur television show when Jerry was 17.The two played in complete synchrony in a style they call "The Mescher Tradition." Jerry won the World Rhythm Bones Championship at the National Traditional Music Association's annual competition. Later Jerry teamed up with his sister, Bernie Worrell, to continue this tradition. Eventually his wife, Sharon, learned the style and the three played as a trio. Jerry technique and timing was best shown when he played to Scott Joplin's Maple Leaf Rag.
Ronnie McShane. Few bones players can claim the accomplishments of Ronnie McShane. He was a member of the ground breaking Irish group, Ceoltoiri Cualann. in the sixties and performed on both radio and television extensively with them as well as recording a number of records. In addition he was a performer with the Chieftains, the most popular traditional Irish musical group of all times, recorded three records with them and toured both Europe and Australia. Ronnie has been a member of RBS.
Gerard Arseneault from Quebec, Canada became know when he attended Bones Fest V. A gentle person who quickly discovered he was an accomplished rhythm bones player. One highlight was his performance on Canadian national television and you can read that story by clicking this Text Box.
Joe Birl developed a black plastic rhythm bones and sold over 200,000 of them. The design included a novel notch that kept the bones from falling out of his hand and he was able to obtain a patent which is the only such rhythm bones patent (that story is in the Museum). Joe was also a good player and got to meet and sell to some well know performers during the middle of the last century. A promoter with a great personality, Joe introduced many people to rhythm bones.
Walt Watkins had a engaging personality and introduced us to the Pass-Off where players are in a circle and one player plays until he passes the lead to the player next to him. He was a lover of Dixieland music, Donny DeCamp introduced him to Six Flags Over Texas where he performed often over the years.

 

Bill Vits is the principal percussionist with the Grand Rapids Symphony and teaches some of our advanced workshops. In addition to playing with his own band and working with children, he gets to play rhythm bones with his symphony orchestra on occasion. Bill is the Assistant Director of RBS
Steve Brown learned to play the bones in 1978 from Percy Danforth. He was greatly influenced by the recordings Peadar Mercier, Ronnie McShane, and Johnny Muise. He was intensely interested in traditional Irish music , won the All Ireland Bone Playing Championship in 2003, and 2004, and served as adjudicator in 2016. He began making bones in the early 80's from the leg bone of the cow, and distributes bones around the world. He joined the Board of Directors of the Rhythm Bones Society in 1999, and has served as Executive Director since 2009.

 

Kenny Wolin is a percussionist with the 'Presidents Own Marine Band' and a rhythm bones enthusiast. He leads many of our advanced workshops, and plays rhythm bones on occasion in the White House. Click HERE to read one of stories and then search (cntl+F) the rest of the newsletters using "Wolin" for more of Kenny's newsletter contributions. The photograph to the left also shows his bones playing wife, Teri.
Steve Wixson bought a pair of 'Joe Birl' rhythm bones, saw the words 'rhythm bones' on them, searched the Internet for that, discovered Martha Cowett's 'Rhythm Bones Central' website, and attended Bones Fest II as a one handed player. Being an university researcher, he returned home and searched the Internet finding about 100 pages of rhythm bones items (now there are 10s of thousands). Contacting the owners of those pages, he found a large number of people who attended Bones Fest III where RBS was organized. He is Secretary/Treasurer and Editor of the Rhythm Bones Player newsletter. He now plays two handed. Steve Wixson
John Perona
Benoit Bourque
Donnie DeCamp won the 25th Annual Bones and Spoons Contest at the National Old Time Music Festival and Contests in Avoca, IA. Donnie has a flamboyant style with great arm movement, and gets paid for playing the bones. He is a occasional performer at Silver Dollar City in Branson, MO and Six Flags over Texas in Arlington, TX.
Elwin "Shorty"Boulet was born and raised in Northern Vermont. He learned to play the bones as a child, and won a contest at 10 years old playing the bones and harmonica at the same time. He had a very musical style, and played with great enthusiasm. He served in World War II in the pacific, and at various points in his life worked as a truck driver, semi professional boxer, and sherrif. He was well known all over Northern New Hampshire for playing the bones, and was invited to play at the Smithsonian Folk Life Festival in Washington, DC as part of the tribute to New Hampshire folk music. He loved to play with other bones players, especially Ernie Duffey, and Sky Bartlett.
Vivian Cox was a professional rhythm bones player playing 5 nights a week at the Boggstown Inn and Cabaret. She learned to play rhythm bones from her father. "I saw my uncle play the bones and Dad knew I was fascinated,” she said. "He made bones for me from the ribs of a butchered beef cow. Playing the bones may look easy, but it took me years of practice to get any good at it. I came in first place at an amateur talent contest when I was 14,” she said proudly. “I won $5, and I still have that five dollar bill."
Dave 'Black Bart' Boyles plays a variety of percussion instruments including rhythm bones in the Lisa Edgar and Razzmatazz band. He also makes and sell rhythm bones using the name 'Black Bart' which is carved into each bone he makes. He hosted Bones Fest XI. To lean what it takes for a very good amateur to play with the Milwaukee Symphony, click HERE.
Rowan Corbett has a long list of groups that he has organized or played with. When Dom Flemons left the Carolina Chocolate Drops group, Rowan was selected to replace him, and now he also is an Ambassador of Rhythm Bones. CCD singer Rhiannon Gibbons and Rowan got rhythm bones some national television exposure when they performed for the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor show for Bill Murray on PBS.