Origins of the Jingling Johnny
Utilized by composers as diverse as Joseph Haydn and Beethoven, the instrument once collectively known as the Turkish crescent has undergone many changes over the centuries as it blended in with the cultures and peoples which adopted it’s unique sound. Originally a military marching instrument, it consisted of an ornate conical brass crescent shaped crosspiece mounted on an 8 foot long shaft covered in a multitude of bells. Played by either twisting or slamming the device, the bells could be rung rhythmically or gently jangled much like with a modern tambourine, and was used by troops to keep time during marches or while on parade.
The modern equivalent has many names, depending on the people putting it to use, and has undergone a variety of transformations. Known as a devil’s stick, bumbass, stump fiddle, stumpf fiddle, humstrum, devil’s violin, bladder and string, stick zither, basse de Flandre, lagerphone, Turkish crescent, Chapeau Chinois, Pavillon Chinois, Party Fiddle, pound stick, pogo cello, or Jingling Johnny the basic arrangement consists of a stick mounted with various bells, springs, pie pans or other resonators, and various other noisemakers. Played by pounding the stick on the floor in rhythm with the music, the bells will jingle in time, as the performer uses a drum stick in his right hand to activate the springs, pans, cowbells, and assorted caboodle with a syncopated beat. This endearing folk instrument has found its way into jug bands, English skiffle groups, folk music, Irish traditional, bluegrass, blues, and even rock bands, and has been played notably by Mojo Nixon, Redd Foxx, and recently Rend Collective’s drummer Gareth Gilkeson.