Off Topic Saturday: Peg Leg Stompin’

Back in the old days, they didn’t have these fancy prosthetics and stuff you see nowadays. If a man lost a leg, a piece of wood might have to do for a replacement.

Legend has it that before the Civil War, a sailor named Peg Leg Joe led slaves out of bondage through the Underground Railroad. However, no reliable evidence has been found to prove there was such a person. This mythical Peg Leg is credited with writing the song “Follow the Drinkin’ Gourd”, which supposedly helped guide slaves on their way to freedom.

Another famous Peg Leg, the late Arthur “Peg Leg Sam” Jackson, would probably say that despite the loss of his leg, he wasn’t missing a thing. Although he was from what many would call “humble beginnings” in South Carolina, he became a wonderful blues singer, harp (harmonica) player, and story-teller. As noted here, “When he wasn’t riding the rails, (Sam) worked as an entertainer with a medicine show run by ‘Chief Thundercloud,’ a Potawotomi Indian… Sam was the last country bluesman to tour the U.S. with a medicine show. Back when the blues was mostly a rural genre, many bluesmen connected with these shows. Each was typically run by a ‘doctor’ whose goal was to make money hawking homemade remedies made primarily from alcohol.” In this excerpt from a documentry, Sam tells us a little bit about hard luck:

There’s nothing but good medicine in Sam’s soul-stirring performance of Joshua Fit The Battle Of Jericho, done with help from guitarist Louisiana Red; it’s from Sam’s album “Joshua”:

Perhaps the most famous Peg Leg of them all was the late Clayton “Peg Leg” Bates. Like Peg Leg Sam, Bates was from South Carolina. He lost a leg at the age of 12 in a cotton gin accident. According to wiki, “Bates was a well-known dancer in his day. He performed on The Ed Sullivan Show approximately 58 times, and had two command performances before the King & Queen of the England.” Bates ran the “Peg Leg Bates Country Club” in upstate New York, from 1951 to 1987, his wife. It was one of many segregated vacation spots that took black customers in the days of Jim Crow. My own family visited the Bates Country Club when I was a child.

Nobody could stomp and tap like Peg Leg Bates:


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