Big Boy Cleveland

Big Boy Cleveland's Quill Blues from 1927 on Gennett Electrobeam 6108, is available on cd on The Songster Tradition 1927 - 1935 and on The Secret Museum of Mankind vol. 5 among others. The Quills is an early American folk panpipe, first noted in the early part of the 19th century among Afro-American slaves in the south. They are aerophones, and fall into the panpipe family. They are assumed to be of African origin, since similar instruments are found in various parts of Africa, and they were first used by 1st and 2nd generation Africans in America. The Quills are a set of cane pipes, numbering from two to at least 8, with each piece of cane stopped at one end by a node, and open at the other. The pipes are often bound together and are played by blowing across the open ends of the tubes. The Quills would probably be forgotten today if not for the excellent recordings by the entertainer and early bluesman Henry Thomas, made in the late 1920s. Alan Lomax and others have recorded traditional players in the field as well. History The Quills are first mentioned in early American plantation slave histories, some dating back to the late 1700s. At that time, the instrument appears to consist of two or more cane pipes, played for recreation and dancing, accompanied by shouts, whoops and songs. They are mentioned fairly often in oral histories but little structural and musical information has survived. Considering how popular they appear to have been, it is surprising that they a...

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