‘The Great American Medicine Show album 1925 – 1947- Viper DL143

15th of March 2021  – DOWNLOAD

The old European idea of the ‘Medicine Show’ involved various acts which included singing, dancing and comedy accompanied by ‘quack’ Doctors or Medicine Men whose remedies might ‘cure any ailments’. The American model of the ‘Medicine Show’- as we think of, started to gain popularity after the American Civil War when the US medical industry was expanding. During this time, there was very little legislation governing what could and could not be sold.

The current Musical trend was an important part of the Medicine Show and often used to soften up the audience before selling their remedies that cured ALL illnesses. These medicines could contain alcohol, cocaine or opium.

Musicians would sing a variety of Folk songs, Dance pieces, Popular Favourites, Comical songs, Parodies, Novelties and instrumentals alongside fellow performers including: minstrels, acrobats, ventriloquists, fire eaters, comedians, snake handlers, mind readers, West Wild themes, dime museums, escape artists and sharp shooters etc.

 With the popularity of Radio and TV the Medicines Shows vanished and where soon seen as something from a bygone era. The ‘Variety’ shows of stage, radio and TV became its legacy….All the artists on this album have been involved and learnt their ‘trade’ with the Medicine Show in all its great variety.

 …..Ladies and Gentlemen Roll up. Roll up! and enjoy the healing properties this album contains. It will cure all your ills!


1. Emmett Miller – Thats the Good Old Sunny South 1929.
Emmett Miller was a ‘blackface’ minstrel from Macon, Georgia who combined Jazz and Hillbilly. In 1929, he was part of Okeh’s The Medicine Show. His recording of the classic Lovesick Blues became a signature tune for Hank Williams.

2. JE Mainers Mountaineers – Blue Ridge Mountain Blues circa 1937.
An incredible fiddle player from North Carolina whose stage show included Comedy routines of the Medicine Shows.

3. Carolina Tar Heels – Rude and Rambling Man 1929.
A show bill of 1930 called Dock Walsh the ‘King Banjo of Carolina’. The band would often perform Folk songs of Black origin.

4. Henry Thomas – Bull Doze Blues 1928.
Henry Thomas was a Hobo and travelling songster, who spent much of his life playing were ever he could. A bull-doze’ means a large, efficient dose of any sort of medicine or punishment.

5. Gid Tanner and the Skillet Lickers – Ida Red 1934.
Gid Tanner was a farmer from Georgia. According to people who saw him play, he was the clown of fiddle players. He looked and sounded funny and performed at various shows around the Southern States. An entertainer as well as
a musician.

6. Frank Stokes – Chicken you can Roost Behind the Moon 1928.
This was a minstrel song made fashionable around the turn of the Century and Frank Stokes plays a stomping version ! Stokes travelled with Doc Watts’ Medicine Show as a musician, ‘blackface’ comedian and buck dancer.

7. Charlie Poole – Don’t let your Deal go Down Blues 1925.
Charlie was very popular in rural areas who’s act often involved music, dancing and comedy.

8. Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys – Steel Guitar Rag 1934.
Bob Wills ‘the King of Western Swing’ running away to join the Medicine show not once but twice!

9. Shorty Godwin – Jimbo Jambo Land 1929.
Toured extensively in the deep South. He became a comedian on a Radio show.

10. Gus Cannon’s Jug Stompers – Bring it with you When you Come 1928.
Gus Cannon was known before this as ‘Banjo Joe’ and travelled with various shows.

11. Sweet Papa Stovepipe – All Birds look like Chicken to Me 1926.
Johnny Watson ( Papa Stovepipe ) grew up in the South and travelled with Minstrel and Medicine Shows. He got his nickname from sporting a stovepipe i.e. top hat which he wore most of his life.

12. Gene Autry – The Rheumatism Blues 1931.
A young Gene Autry left his Oklahoma Ranch to join the Field Brothers Marvellous Medicine Show. His fame and fortune was made famous in numerous Western and Cowboy Films.

13. Sonny Terry – Harmonica and Washboard Breakdown 1940.
The well-known Blues Harmonica player spent time with the Medicine Show learning his trade.

14. Sleepy John Estes – Special Agent Blues 1938.
another mysterious Bluesman who spent time with the Medicine Shows.

15. Roy Acuff – Fire Ball Mail 1942.
Played the fiddle on stage for the first time of Doc Hauer’s Show in 1932.

16. Will Shade and Memphis Jug Band – Kansas City Blues 1927.
Jug bands often appeared on Medicine Shows and Will Shade was no exception.

17. Grant Brothers – Tell it to Me 1928.
The Brothers learnt their skills by playing the Medicine Show circuits. Their act involved old time songs, regional tunes and comedy

18. Uncle Dave Macon – Uncle Dave’s Beloved Solo 1926.
Learnt his skills from travelling performers. He was an entertainer who incorporated both music and comedy into his act. He went into Radio.

19. Walter Cold – Mama Keep your yes Ma’am Clean 1930.
No one knows much about this Artist who was probably from the Cincinnati area. This song is a combination of two other songs made popular by Blues musicians and Jug bands who played the Medicine Show circuit.

20. Hank Williams – Move It on Over 1947.
Hank Williams sold herbal remedies with a medicine troupe in Alabama (meeting his first Wife Miss Audrey Sheppard on the circuit) He was also the headline act on the Hadacol Caravan in 1951, America’s last big Medicine Show.