This guy was my inspiration when I started to play the washboard. If Ralf Reynolds is the king of jazz washboard, then Washboard Chaz Leary is undoubtedly the king of the board in the world of blues.
Many years ago, I was an aspiring washboardiste. YouTube didn’t exist, and it was difficult to find records that included a washboard at all, let alone any that had the board mixed up high enough that you could actually hear what was going on. A guitarist turned me on to some John Hammond cuts that featured Washboard Chaz. (Check out Hammond’s album Frogs For Snakes, and listen especially to “Mellow Down Easy” and “Mellow Peaches,” which both feature Chaz.) My mind was blown. It seemed nearly impossible that one guy, working alone, could make so much rhythm.
In the years since I first heard his work, I’ve made a point of listening to everything Chaz-related that I could find. His work–especially his stuff with the Washboard Chaz Blues Trio–is a masterclass on washboard technique.
Unfortunately, although he can be found all over YouTube, there are no videos out there that give you a real feeling for the amazing, subtle shadings he brings to the board. That’s a crime.
If you don’t know Chaz and his work, you can buy CDs of any of the many groups he’s recorded with at his site.