Washtub bass in apartment

This project is completed! Will Shade now has a gravestone, and hopefully some new recognition as well. You can visit the Events page to learn about the gravestone project, or the Resources page to learn more about his life.

– Arlo Leach, project organizer

Tribute Concert

On January 27, 2008, a variety of musicians gathered at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago to pay tribute to Will Shade and his music:

Before the concert, we introduced an enthusiastic audience to jug band history with a screening of Todd Kwait's film Chasin' Gus' Ghost. Then we warmed up with a rip roarin' jug band jam. And when the main event began, we couldn't have been happier: over 400 people filled the concert hall, for a sold-out show that raised enough money to purchase a gravestone for Will Shade and pay for a reception in Memphis when it's installed.

If you missed the show, check out these videos!

Gravestone Ceremony

On May 3, 2008, some of the concert participants and some new friends traveled to the Shelby County Cemetery in Memphis to dedicate the new gravestone. After an informal ceremony and a few songs, we reconvened at the Center for Southern Folklore for a reception and jam session. Then we took the music to the streets, 1920's style, and busked for the crowds at the annual Beale Street Music Festival.

You can watch videos of dedications from Arlo Leach and Jim Johnson, and read the text of the speech by Dr. David Evans. Or just scroll down for photos of the gravestone, designed by Robert Armstrong and manufactured by West Memorials, and some amazing tintypes created by Bill Steber of the ceremony participants:

Ceremony songs

Ceremony toast


Photo shoot

Tintype 1

Tintype 2

Brass Note Ceremony

After a long approval process, several participants in the gravestone ceremony reunited in Memphis on August 1, 2009, to dedicate a new brass note for Will Shade and the Memphis Jug Band in the Beale Street "walk of fame." The "Brass Note Jug Band," consisting of musicians from Tennessee, Oklahoma, Kansas, Illinois and Oregon, spent the afternoon performing authentic jug band music for the Beale Street crowds at entrance to Handy Park, where the Memphis Jug Band performed for over three decades.

Click the photos below to view albums posted by four of the participants:

J.R. Jenks's photos

Jim Johnson's photos

Ken Hall's photos

Moody Tuner's photos

New Gravestone

In September 2010, Don Alberty visited Will Shade's gravesite and found that the granite stone had been badly damaged by the cemetery lawnmower. Fortunately, the Shelby County Health Department, which manages the cemetery, took responsibility and replaced the stone. The new one uses a different process and doesn't match the original design exactly, but it's still a good tribute to Will Shade's music:

replacement gravestone

And again!

After several people tried to visit the gravestone and couldn't find it, we contacted the Shelby County Department of Public Works, which now manages the cemetery, and they couldn't find it either. They offered to buy yet another replacement gravestone, and installed it in April 2018. They also found the precise location for the grave, which was about a hundred yards from our original, estimated location. Hopefully now that it's in the right spot, it will stay there! Or as Charlie Musselwhite told the producers of American Epic, Will might just be using a little hoodoo to play a final prank on us all.

replacement gravestone 2