How on earth does one play the stovepipe?

In a great collection of jug band music from the twenties called “Ruckus Juice and Chittlins” I’ve just run across something in the liner notes I’ve never heard of before.

Describing a selection by the King David Jug Band, the author says, “At times the jug sounds suspiciously like a stovepipe, which Jones also played”.

Now, I can easily understand how it could be played as a percussion instrument, but how in the world do you make a noise that sounds anything like a jug come out of a stovepipe?

Rural musicians in the Andes mountains play wooden flutes, and they have a bass flute that looks like a huge Pan flute. That might be what the liner notes refer to.

Trust you city boys to put a damper on our stovepipe fun!

Ever see Blue Man Group?
For part of their act they play these large pipes, like stove pipes or drain pipes, albeit made of PVC (or so it appears). Get an amazing variety of tones out of them, actually. My assumption was that playing the stovepipe is similar. {The basso profundo of bluegrass/olde tyme music?)

Har! That’s a hot one — you’re cookin’ now!

Actually, though, I think you may’ve put me on to something: if you took the damper out of a stovepipe, it’d leave a little hole in the side, n’est ce pas? And if a skilled huffer placed his highly trained lips near said hole… voila! A giant, sheet-metal flute! Maybe.

Leave it to the Kobalt Kids — but how do they produce the sound, exactly? When I envision a stove pipe, I see something so wide in circumference that to get a tone out of it, you’d have to have lungs as powerful as a wind tunnel and lips like inner tubes…

It’s percussion. This page on the BMG site shows some of their tube instruments. A membrane is across one end and hit with sticks or paddles. The tubes are tuned so the sound is more of a tone than a simple drumbeat. They used to have music samples on the site, but I guess not any more.


Hmmm…that can’t be it, then. I went back to the track in question (where the liner-note writer says the jug sounds “suspiciously” like a stovepipe) and, however the sound is produced, I guarantee it’s not through percussion. Very jug-like to my ear, though maybe a little tinnier (which would make sense, I guess – assuming it is a stovepipe)