Thursday, January 10, 2019

John Henry (Bones) Nobles

Most music lovers in Texas knew Nobles, affectionately called "Bones" for his eclectic choice of instrument - a pair of cow ribs, one black, one white.
Like many traditional musicians, John Nobles learned to play music during childhood. Playing rhythm sticks with other boys inspired him to create a unique sound to earn more money shining shoes and playing in a small combo. 
Playing bones has African and Afro-Caribbean antecedents, and the improvisation and syncopation required to play bones are hallmarks of African music. Likewise, as in the song John Nobles sings about Miss Possum and Miss Toad, during the 19th and early 20th centuries, African American stories, songs, and toasts featured animals, which many scholars think is an African influence. 
John Nobles’s creativity led him to make his own bones and develop a secret salve with which to cure them. His musical gifts led him to mastery and allowed him to play many types of traditional ensembles, from bluegrass to zydeco. 
Growing up in rural Alabama and Texas as the child of a sharecropper, John Nobles demonstrates how traditional culture enriches life and builds resilience.
He died in October 1997 at age 95, and played the bones in the hospital before his death, his daughter, Ethel Franklin, told The Enterprise in 1997.

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