Who says you can't drink and play simultaneously? The Australian name for the Mendoza, Mendozer, Monkey Stick, Murrumbidgee River Rattler, or Zob Stick, this ultimate pub instrument is a shake-and-bang percussion stick or pole is mostly made from nailed-on beer bottle tops. These are separated by washers to create the necessary click and jingle. The base of the pole is often wrapped in cloth, or sometimes even a shoe to protect damage to the floor.
Associated primarily with folk music, especially the English genre, and often made and traditionally played in pubs and alehouses, it's not an instrument that requires enormous skill or learning, other than a sense of rhythm, but has a distinctive sound that fuses the thump of a drum with the rattle of a tambourine, and is sometimes hit with a smaller stick to add extra beats. It will be familiar to anyone who has witnessed a rural folk music festival or bands that accompany Morris dancers.
The Australian name is obviously explained, and the metal beer tops are a replacement from the Aboriginal traditional instrument on which sea shells would have been attached for the rattle element. The rattler associated also with the Murrumbidgee River, a tributary of the Murray River within the Murray–Darling basin. It's the second longest river in Australia and flows through New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory.
Mendoza or Mendozer, it is theorised, has a Roma, Italian or Spanish origin, possibly via immigrants in London in the 19th century who played in in pubs during that period. Monkey stick possibly has the association of the monkey and organ grinder in street music.
In Newfoundland, it is referred to as an ugly stick. in Ukraine it’s a batih. In the Dutch province Friesland it's called a kuttepiel, often amusingly decorated:
In the US, across Minnesota and Wisconsin, the similar folk music stumpf fiddle or pogocello or Devil's stick, originally came from immigrant Czech communities, who instead of beer bottle tops, added small cymbals, strings and a horn to the stick, and also a drum.
The 'Zob Stick' variation is was made and named much later, in 1968, by percussionist and songwriter Keef Trouble of the band Brett Marvin and the Thunderbolts and Terry Dactyl and the Dinosaurs. Zob is navel slang for a commissioned officer, but also has a sexual connotation. The stick has a spring-loaded boot, as a musical form of pogo stick. Here's the band, featuring the stick, and also singer Jona Lewie doing On A Saturday Night.
Other folk bands who have used the instrument regularly included Groanbox, Dr. Busker, and Zapoppin'. Here's the latter with a punk-folk fusion.
There is also a jazz-swing band named The Lagerphones, but, ironically they don't seem to use the instrument.
Fancy shaking a stick at thinking of any other lagerphone, monkey or zob stick music? Do any other types or images come to mind? Feel free to share other examples in songs, instrumentals, on albums, or other contexts in comments below. You can also get in touch the contact page, and also visit us on social media: Song Bar Twitter, Song Bar Facebook. Song Bar YouTube. and Song Bar Instagram. Please subscribe, follow and share.
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