Dem Bones Dem Bones

Bones Fest III

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Video Highlights (re-edit larger)

Russ and Wilma Myers of Brightwood, VA were great hosts opening their almost one century old home to 25 bones players and their guests. The view of the Blue Ridge Mountains from the deck, which served as our stage, was inspiring. Russ, a bones playing purist, tolerated all deviations in procedure of bones playing, bells, whistles, rattles and dress. He opened the festival with a brief history of the bones and 
demonstrated how he can change the pitch while playing without interrupting play.  The festival was structured into three parts. Part I gave each player a chance to introduce themselves and demonstrate their own styles and bones thing. Part II consisted of groups; specialty shows and free style group jamming. It was rumored that the racket was heard as far away as the mall in Washington DC. Part III of the Fest was a business-like meeting where the attendees after much discussion agreed upon forming an association of bones players. The purpose being to preserve and foster development of bones playing sounds and music. To distinguish musical bone players from archeological boners, osteopaths, trombone, domino and die players, and with the permission of Joe Birl the holder of the Rhythm Bones® trademark, the association selected the Rhythm Bones Society for its name and elected a Board of Directors and a slate of officers. These include:

Everett Cowett, Executive Director, Greensboro, NC
Russ Myers – Assistant Director, Brightwood, VA
Steve Wixson – Sec/Treasurer, Steve Wixson, Signal Mnt, TN
Steve Brown – Board Member, Winchendon, MA
Sally Carroll – Board Member, Reston, VA
Mel Mercier – Board Member, Cork Ireland
Jerry Mescher – Board Member, Halbur, IA

The Board of Directors met following the Fest and selected Chattanooga, TN as the site for Bones Fest IV. It will be held during the 4th weekend of Sept. (22, 23 and 24) 2000.
These formalities were followed by another hour of bones jamming, mostly to 1990's music where everyone contributed.  Although everyone present contributed much to the success of this event I will signal out several folks who took the event even further with their efforts.

Bones, Balls and Bells, Darryl "Spike Bones" Muhrer gave us an abbreviated version of his show which represents American entertainment from the era of 1840 to 1940. He included singing, dancing, juggling, puppets and audience participation in addition to bones playing. Spike went from cow bones, in front of the pastured cows behind our host's house, to Vegetarian  (American wooden) bones commonly used today.Later Spike was part of a spontaneous "Bones-off" with Black Bart theWisconsin boner and rib bones maker.
Steve Wixson gave us an Internet review of Bones sites accompanied by a CD with clips from many old time greats. In addition to playing the bones he also arranged a library of sorts, which displayed bone types, teaching tools, CD's, tapes, cassettes and historical items. Unexpected gifts from attendees donated additional material, which created a (Bones Playing/Rhythm Bones) museum.
David "Black Bart" or "Bones Man" (depending upon the audience) Boyles, is a real bones maker and showman from Wisconsin. He showed us his secrets as to how to dress "the part", add humor, select a good animal, retrieve the right parts from the slaughter house, boil them down, and make collectable bones with scrimshaw and silver tips. In addition he shared a film clip of himself in a failed beer commercial and a Jamaican Holiday. With all of that and the "Bones-off" with Spike he was a great showman.
Martha Cowett our web page mistress, in addition to playing bones until she blistered her fingers, had her computer set up to demonstrate accessing and retrieving the Rhythm Bones Central web site ( to all who were interested. This web site is responsible for bringing many of us together.
John "Mr. Bones" Cahill, warring a top hat and appropriate attire of the 1850's got everyone's attention. He played with one long curved bone and one short flat thick bone in each hand and created sounds of unusual quality. 
Paul Duhon, an 82 year old Acadian from Louisiana was a real treat for everyone. His brother Willie retrieved him from a nursing home just for Bones Fest III. He played pieces of leg bone of a cow, which he had cut and polished to resemble narrow piano keys. Dan Cowett accompanied the 5 ft. 2 in. Duhon on guitar. Duhon wore a long red shirt which reached his knees where a wide white belt held up little patched britches under a huge stomach. His legs looked to be only 2 ft. long. When the music started he turned on like a light bulb with hands flying, bones clicking and body swinging as he danced and played to the sound of the music.
Paul in costume Paul as himself

What a thrill to have four female bones players appearing. Sally Carroll was without question the rookie of the year. Martha Cowett and Deborah Brown were experienced but Vivian Cox at 78 was one of the few professional players present. She plays at the Boogstown Inn and Cabaret Supper Club in Boggstown, IN and Bronson, MO in Ragtime and Roaring Twenties Bands. She was a ball of fire at the Fest and never missed a click.
Deborah Brown Martha Cowett Sally Carroll Vivian Cox

Bodhran, Bones and Bonesgrass music were on the scene with Mel Mercier from Cork, Ireland on Bodhran, Ev Cowett on bones and Dan Cowett on guitar. Mel brought an Irish flavor to the spirited music written by Dan and an excellent one-handed bone solo later in the day.  Dan was also our sound man and cassette tape/CD coordinator. He did and excellent job.


Joe Birl holder of the Rhythm Bones® patent and Trademark gave us the story of making plastic Rhythm Bones, obtaining a patent and trademark and manufacturing and distributing them. It is a long story filled with many "almost made it's" which kept us on the edge of our seats. Joe never gave up. On top of that Joe is a great bones player with many tricks, historical bone trinkets and photos in his bag which he happily shared with us.
Matteo introduced us to classical castanets, a great performance by a world class percussionist. Bones players can all take a page out of his book to add to their repertoire.  And that being said we cannot over look Carl "Old Bones" Hedrick, Fincastle, VA who mixed bones and great humor; Tom Rice, Farmville, VA clicking to 1800's banjo music; Charlie Breeland, King William, VA who promised to prepare for Fest IV;
Tommy Cowett, Richmond, VA playing bones like a rock drummer at a concert; Parker Waite, Sedgwick, ME with bones hip hop; John Cowett, Wilmington, NC first solo; Kevin Dunn, Farmville, VA singing and playing bones to Irish music; Art Scholtz, Upton, NY with a bag full of tricks too numerous to mention; Bill Rough, Earlsville, VA who had to leave early; and the Swedish Rhapsody with Dan , Al, Tom, Martha, John and Ev Cowett playing with Percy Faith and his Orchestra. It was a great day ofsharing, caring and learning, not unlike a family reunion. A weekend to remember!
Carl Hedrick Parker Waite Kevin Dunn Art Scholtz Ev Cowett

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This page was last updated February 22, 2003 by Jonathan Danforth, you can reach him at