Diddley Bow Resources:

Here's a Flash slide show of Moses Williams of Waverly, FL playing "Which Way did My Baby Go?" on hollow door diddley bow.

Or if that doesn't play here's a photo album on "Cigarbox Nation"


Scott Ainslie plays a mean diddley bow. Here's a clip of Scott playing

"Parchman Farm Blues"

Scott is also an amazing singer songwriter and plays one of my gourd banjos. Check out his site:  http://www.cattailmusic.com/

This is some wonderful music from Malawi Africa [southeast Africa] with a huge diddley bow in it.

One String Willie has the most thorough site with tons of resources.


Ben Prestage wrote a great article on Moses:http://www.bluesalliance.org/Legends/MosesWilliams/MosesWilliams.htm

Florida Blues Legend- Moses Williams by Ben Prestage

I first heard the name "Moses Williams" from someone at the last yearís 54th annual Florida Folk Festival (which happened to be one of the best festivals Iíve seen!) Check it out:

http://www.floridastateparks.org/folkfest/Default.htm After one of my performances someone came up to me and began telling me about someone he had heard at the same festival in 1978: a Florida resident/musician by the name of Moses Williams. I never heard the name, so when I got home I did some of my own research, and I asked some friends at www.tweedsblues.nethttp://www.tweedsblues.net for some answers. What I found quickly put this legend at the top my favorites list. He is one of the main reasons I thought someone should write a "Florida Blues Legends" article to inform people about some of the culture and art in Florida that has been neglected for so long.http://www.floridastateparks.org/folkfest/Default.htm Heís a rather obscure artist who recorded relatively few songs which are archived in Tallahassee by the Florida Department of State. His style of music is the oldest and rawest known form Blues. No flashy solos just rhythm, rhyme, and a melody that is dissonant to the unaccustomed ear. He played some guitar, but his main instrument, is a form of diddley-bow, which he called a "yakkety-board." This type of instrumentís roots have been traced back to West African Origin. Williamsí was made from a piece of broom wire stretched and nailed to a wall at both ends. Williams said he started with bailing wire, but it stretched too much and wouldnít stay in tune. He used a pint bottle under the string pushed close to one of the nails to create tension on the string and to tune the instrument. With his left had he used a bottle neck that could play smooth melody lines or bang out complex rhythms. His right hand was used to pick the string. On fast songs he strummed back and forth with his fingers and on slow tunes he fitted his index finger with a pop-top tab from an older-style can to emulate a finger-pick.

When he started playing outside his home he modified his instrument to make it mobile. In place of the wall which was immovable he used a one-and-a-half inch by six foot wood hollow core door which he could carry to Juke Joints and festivals. A great sample of his playing can be heard at:


Moses Williams was born February 15, 1919, in Itta Bena, Mississippi. He heard Blues and one-string diddley-bow players from a young age in Mississippi and by 11 he was a professional, performing on street corners in Itta Bena to attract business for the shoe-shine boy and the peanut vendor. Shortly after that he was recruited by the Silas Green Show, an all-black traveling vaudeville troupe, where he was known as "Haywire Tom."

After his stint with the Silas Green Show, Moses Williams traveled the South working odd jobs until the 40's when he ended up in Memphis. In the Bluff City, he made some side money playing his "yakkety-board" on the streets with a washboard player and a drummer for tips.

In the early part of the 50's Moses Williams, along with many other laborers, moved to Florida to work in the orange groves. He has lived in Polk County since then, and at last documentation (that I could find) he was making a living operating a tractor in the groves of Waverly, Florida.

Here you can see a prototype of a bass diddley bow I made using a bungee cord:


I see Ben Seymour, a fine builder of dulcimers and other stringed instruments has added a "diddy bow" to his line.


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