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'50s R&B

LET THERE BE DRUMS

George Coleman  Bongo Joe  Arhoolie album cover

George Coleman's nickname was Bongo Joe, but no one seems to know why, least of all George.  In Houston during the late '40s, he was turned down for a job as a drummer in a local band because he did not own a set of drums. George got real mad, found a discarded oil drum (Houston has plenty!), dented it with an axe, and hit the streets.

A self-made beatnik, George played for tourists in Galveston and found work in a coffeehouse in Houston.  But no one really appreciated his art so George moved to San Antonio, where he played for small change in front of the Alamo and where, on December 7, 1968, on portable equipment, this bizarre album was recorded.

Coleman's instrument is a 55-gallon oil drum which he pounds with the handles of oil cans filled with pebbles and BB-shot. His voice is that of a '50s R&B shouter.  At odd moments, he will mumble to himslef, and when he cannot think of anything to say, he whistles or makes bird noises.  He is given to mad outbursts of panting and laughter. Although seemingly composed on the spot, his lyrics are hip, filled with bawdy humor and structured as fables. George slings the bullshit real good.