by Sweet Lips Neckbone (retired)     Disc-O-Graph  Vol.2 Issue 4
Although most blues collectors are acquainted with the works of such seminal
bluesmen as Robert Johnson, "Blind Lemon" Jefferson, or Leadbelly, very few
are familiar with (or even aware of) the important works of Lucas "Horned
Rabbit" Bode. Now, thanks to the recent discovery of several obscure recordings,
Gogo Records of Nice, France, have made available a complete collection of
Horned Rabbit's recorded works.

For those who don't know, a bit of background is necessary, Horned Rabbit was
born sometime during the Civil War in Yanopatawpha County, Mississipi. Scholars
are not sure how he obtained his unusual nickname, although there are mentions
of an occurance in his childhood when he averted his own death by running out
of his master's house as it was being shelled by Union troops. What exactly
that means, no one knows.

Regardless, Horned Rabbit soon established a name for himself in the milltowns
of Yoknapatawpha County as an entertainer and singer. Unfortunately, that name
was rather nasty, and he was soon run  out of Mississippi. He became a wandering
minstrel, a journeyman blues singer, a musical nomad. He wandered from town to
town singing and strumming his guitar, or sometimes a clarinet when no guitar
could be found.

One memorable episode in Horned Rabbit's wanderings was when the veteran blues
man was heard by the then-youthful Robert Johnson. Johnson used to tell the
story; "I remember I was about twelve years old, and I'd stand out in the streets
listening to the bluesmen come to town. One night I heard something unusual,
it was Horned Rabbit. There he stood, singin' and strummin' his clarinet. It
was the most unusual sound I'd heard, and, of course, I wasn't until years
later that I found out most people blew into a clarinet. "Never could figure
out how ol' Rabbit did it. Had some kind of ferocious slide technique, though."

Unfortunately, tragedy struck, as a bad reed cane crop made clarinet reeds
almost unobtainable in the southwest. Horned Rabbit tried to keep playing, but
with no reed he looked so foolish that most crowds threw bacon at him.
For awhile, Rabbit was confused, until his Rabbi told him it was kosher to get
hit by bacon, so long as he didn't eat any of it.

Finally, Horned Rabbit made the big move of his life. With a brand new clarinet,
he had established a name for himself in the hot club district of Kansas City.
Although he was by then blind, he had a young assistant who took him to and from
the lucrative engagements, leading Horned Rabbit by the hand through the streets
of Kansas City.

One night while he was playing the Novelty Club (Sixteenth and McGee), word came
that the rich young New Yorker John Hammond was interested in recording the aged
bluesman, and that Hammond was making a special trip out to see Rabbit that night.

After having discovered such Kansas City stalwarts as Joe Turner, Albert Ammons,
Pete Johnson and Meade Lux Lewis, Hammond was looked upon as a windfall for the
now almost eighty-year old bluesman.

Unfortunately, while crossing a street on the way to the club, Rabbit's young guide
tripped, and both were hit by a truck and killed.

The Gogo recordings were made in Austin, Texas in June 1926. Most are unaccompanied
performances, although Rabbit is playing guitar instead of clarinet (the early
acoustic recordings were too delicate to handle the huge sonorities of Horned
Rabbit's clarinet). On two tracks though, Rabbit is joined by the Austin brass band,
who had arrived for their recording session a few minutes earlier. The two tunes,
"Red Gulley Blues" and "The Stars and Stripes Forever", show Horned Rabbit at his
best in the blues shout style (on "Red Gulley Blues", for example, note the keen
harmonic sense when he sings "Damn it, George, get these arseholes out of here!).

Gogo records are obtainable from Mervo Records, and Flatwear, 2932 Hardwood Terrace,
Buena Vista California, 90620.  The title is "Horned Rabbit, Complete", and costs
$8.98, plus postage.