McClurg’s Music to Ouija By

At some point a relative of mine worked on novelty recordings, including several haunted house records, and then made albums that supposedly capture the sound of these hybrid Ouija/keyboard instruments he built that played music and conjured EVP. We’re not sure how many of these he built or where they are, but the tracks that have been found (and sort-of re-issued) feature three: The Magic Tray, The I-D-O PSY-CHO-I-D-E-O-GRAPH, and The Electric Mystifying Oracle. No one’s sure if it was part of his Halloween or seance party recordings or something he took more seriously. Below are some photos and liner notes. Here’s where you can listen.

Notes:

The recording you now possess was created by an entity born in Eastern Kentucky as Allie Bob O’Robbie McClurg, called Allie by his family, and later known as Mus Mus. His birth brought together two clashing households–the O’Robbie and McClurg clans–and they decided that he should have both surnames. With a love of Tin Pan Alley tunes and cowboy ballads, he left home to pursue a career in entertainment. Never very successful (his early career involved providing sound effects on novelty records), he did manage a lifelong friendship with Toronto-born composer/arranger Percy Faith. They also shared the same birthday: April 7, 1908. 

Jake Wimly remembers the hard days: “We was all trying to get to the big time, you know. I had been to some wrestling matches at the Piper Domes when a pal of mine named Deuce Rogers asked me if I wanted to be in a movie they was filming about a cowboy band because the director didn’t like the look of the cross-eyed tenor. I had sidlined before so it was no big deal. That’s where I met Allie, that’s what we called him until all the ‘Mus Mus’ crap. He played a bar patron and did some lighting work from what I remember. He was always a little strange, but good people.” 

Murphey DePaul, a producer on the Ouija sessions has some Mus Mus memories as well: “He would only work by candlelight. One person was allowed at a time in the studio with him. He called them a ‘psychic battery’ for the session. No one would go in with him, so I volunteered. He shook my hand, strapped me down in a chair, and stepped behind the curtains erected around the instruments he designed. People always ask me about the boards and other instruments he built, and as much as I’d love to exaggerate their qualities, none of us were allowed to see them uncovered. One of the boxes was marked ‘The von Krieg Estate’ and that’s about all I can say. I just know something…something happened that night I can’t explain. That or he pulled one helluva Oz stunt there in the studio.” DePaul swears that any and all voices on these tracks were never heard during recording, but only during playback. 

Couplet

While reading a De Quincey collection, I came across some lines of Shelley that I either hadn’t read or hadn’t remembered, but I immediately responded to them in this context:

With hue like that when some great painter dips 
His pencil in the gloom of earthquake and eclipse.

I genuinely enjoy Puritan writing, especially diaries and journals. I’ve discovering some interesting Victorian journals (not De Quincey) that I’ll write about soon. Some read like excerpts of the Psychopathia Sexualis, quite different from the Puritan journals.

Ringing New Ears

One of the ways I celebrate the New Year is through music. For the past few years that has meant Thai music, especially phin and isaan music.

This year I’ve been listening to the Sons of Kemet record Your Queen Is a Reptile. The quartet of sax, tuba, and two drummers plays powerful, danceable, and reflective pieces. The music is about memory and celebration (at least one piece is dedicated to a family member), and while looking back, has an aggressive drive forward.

Sounds like a good way to approach a new year to me.

Happy New Year!

Sons of Kemet performing “My Queen Is Harriet Tubman.”

Stull crawls into the light…

I’ll hopefully have more thoughts about this soon. I hadn’t played with a drummer in six years and I knew I was going to approach playing improv in a different way than I had in the past. I was full of monkey mind, but I’m happy with the results and look forward to more work with Stull and with a few other projects.

The Subversive Workshop

Stull is a long-running improvisational group with me on guitar and Tracy Harris on drums. Our friend Stephen McClurg joins us now on bass, and we’re putting some recordings of a recent get-together at The Subversive Workshop up on Soundcloud. Here are a couple for you to get into a deep space freakout with…

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