Charlie Burse (tenor guitar) with Will Shade (jug) in 1941.

An uncommon talent

Most jug band fans know that Will Shade led the seminal Memphis Jug Band. But the perfect complement to Shade's quiet wit and behind-the-scenes organizing was Charlie Burse, a skilled multi-instrumentalist, boisterous singer and memorable showman. Burse contributed to some of the Memphis Jug Band's best-known songs -- from his guitar riffs on "Cocaine Habit" and "You May Leave" to his lead vocals on "Bottle It Up and Go" and "Stealin' Stealin'" -- and his high-energy, jazzy compositions added a new dimension to the band's repertoire. While playing with Shade well into the 1960s, Burse also led his own bands, and almost made a pop music breakthrough as one of Sun Records' first recorded artists.

Belated recognition

Beyond the recognizable vocal style and showy tenor guitar riffs he developed in the 1930s, Burse's contributions have been nearly lost in the incomplete personnel records of the Memphis Jug Band recordings. Our research has identified all the instrumental and vocal parts he performed with the band, revealing just how broad his musical skills were. And we worked with the Mt. Zion Memorial Fund to install a memorial at Rose Hill Cemetery in Memphis, where he was buried in an unmarked grave in 1965.