Rhythm Bones Players


Mid-20th Century

This is the first page of the known rhythm bones players. There is not a lot known about players prior to the Minstrel Era, though the late Russ Myers said the Egyptian Goddess Hathor used them in fertility ceremonies.  The players are approximately in chronological order except for RBS Members who are in alphabetical order.

Minstrel 19th Century

Minstrel 19th Century - The Virginia Minstrel Band consisting of fiddle, banjo, tambourine and rhythm bones started the 80 or so year Minstrel era.  Frank Bower was the rhythm bones player and you can read about him below. Click this text box to see a list of players in Beth Lenz's Master's Thesis.

Frank Brower was a circus performer who became the first minstrel rhythm bones player in the Virginia Minstrels. After the group disbanded, Frank and banjo legend Joe Sweeney toured the East Coast together. Click to read more about Brower.

Early 20th Century

Early 20th Century -1900-1930 Bones moved from the minstrel show and integrated in various musical forms through recordings and traveling medicine shows

Cecil Hiatt was born in Braman, Oklahoma in the early 1900s, and he first heard rhythm bones from a traveling medicine show. He could play many instruments, but ended up playing rhythm bones. He taught Barry Patton how to play them, and has one recording. He made over 2000 pairs of rhythm bones out of every wood available.

Albert Mescher, a German-American farmer, created a two-handed rhythm bones playing style in the 1920s in Iowa, and subsequently passed it on to his son, Jerry.  Albert and Jerry eventually won a spot on the Ted Mack Amateur Hour TV show. Jerry passed on the style to his sister, Bernie, and the siblings are now the principal exponents of the style. The style is marked by a pervasive rhythmic syncopation derived from the ragtime music that Albert pumped out of the family player piano when he was a young boy learning to play rhythm bones. Mel Mercier did his PhD thesis on the Mescher style and click in the box to read it.

Neal Smith

Neal Smith Recorded with Packie Dolan and his Melodie Makers in 1928, perhaps the first recorded bones and bodhran player. A number of recordings exist with Packie Dolan.


Mid-20th Century