This blog is dedicated to the sublime instruments called nose flutes and which produce the most divine sound ever. We have chosen to discard all the native models from S. Pacific and Asia, for they need fingering to be played. We'll concentrate on "buccal cavity driven" nose flutes : the well patented and trademarked metal or plastic ones, plus, by a condemnable indulgence, some wooden craft or home-made productions.

Aug 13, 2012

Jones' Paramount Charleston Four - Humanophone

In May 1925, the Jones' Paramount Charleston Four recorded 2 titles : Homeward Bound Blues (Paramount 12279A)and Old Steady Roll(Paramount 12279B). The musicians are Harvey Jones, Ernest Tapley (banjo/mandolin), James Turner(banjo madolin) and Eddie Vincent (trombone).

In those recordings, Harvey Jones was supposed to play the nose flute (as stated on several websites). Indeed, Jones was a noseflutist. I looked for these pieces of history for months, until I found the trace of an Ebay auction for the 78rpm, got in touch with the buyer, who gently accepted to send me mp3. Great and beautiful early jazz music, but huge disappontment : no nose flute, but a kazoo !

Homeward Bound Blues :

Old Steady Roll :

However, Harvey Jones (01/27/1902, Versailles, Ky - 1960s, Chicago)) was an entertainer and a noseflutist. In The Jug Bands of Louisville, by Fred Cox, John Randolph and John Harris and compiled by Laurie Wright in his out of stock magazine Storyville, one could read :

« An early member of Earl McDonald's Louisville Jug Band was Harvey Jones. Although Jones had been a drummer in his earlier career, the Jug Band needed pure novelty and Jones danced, sang and played novelty instruments. After the Jug Band played in Chicago in 1920 (therefore, long before they had recorded) Jones set up his own novelty group and played Kelly's Stables, Sherman House, theaters and mainly white clubs. Harvey reported that the Jones So-Different Four recorded TIGER RAG and HOMEWARD BOUND for Paramount. Obviously this is the item issued as Jones Paramount Charleston Four and the title for TIGER RAG was changed to OLD STEADY ROLL. The personnel for the date was: Harvey Jones - leader, Humanophone (a nose-whistle looking like a football nose-guard in which air blown through the nose is recirculated against the vocal chords and is given resonance and timbre in in the mouth), and Jazz Sax, a kazoo in the form of a sax. Ernest Tapley - banjo; James Turner - banjo; Sol Turner (not related) - guitar. »

This is very bizarre : the nose flute is mentioned (but not audible) and the Eddie Vincent's trombone is missing, although very recognizable in the records. Were they 2 versions of those tunes ???

Regarding the nose flute, the article mentions a « Humanophone ». In the International Association of Jazz Record Collectors Journal, Vol. 19-20, the glossary states :

HUMANOPHONE - This and kazoo used by Harvey Jones on a Paramount record in 1925. he same record also had others playing trombone, banjo and mandolin.

And back in Storyville :

« The Humanophone was purchased at Lyons & Healy music store at Wabash and Jackson, Chicago, soon after Jones arrived in 1920, and when he was looking for novelty instruments. Jones knows of no one else who ever captured the technique of the Humanophone. »

This testimony states that the Humanophone existed already in 1920.

And elsewhere in Storyville :

« Under the leadership of Harvey Jones, they organized a novelty band without a jug blower, using the name Jones' So Diffrent Four. Harvey had probably heard Whistler blowing the nose-whistle in Louisville, because he purchased one (trade name: Humanophone) at the Lyons & Healy music store, mastered it, and began featuring it with his So Diffrent Four. »

So, Harvey Jones would have bought a Humanophone after having heard Buford Threlkeld!, eminent honorary degree member of the Nose Flute Hall of Fame !

We propose Harvey Jones for Nose Flute Hall of Fame membership!


  1. Fabulous research once again!

    Fantastic historic facts: even the shop that sold the Humanophone in 1920 is mentioned! Wonderful to be able to uncover and trace back such details. Without these efforts all would simply have ceased to exist...!

    Something tells me that there must be much more out there; protoypes, documents, pictures, recordings...surely (?) Just hope they won't be chucked away when attics are being cleared...

    It forever amazes me that despite the facts stated, the reality is still very different! Here the nose flute is mentioned in the recording, yet it cannot be heard.

    I had a similar thing with the track "Roads" on the Portishead debut album Dummy from 1994. The instrument in mentioned in the booklet on the very track, yet cannot be distinguished... The nose flute remains enigmatic in many ways...

    Harvey Jones for Hall of Famer!

  2. The solo instrument sounds like a clarinet to me. The record companies of the time usually recorded two takes of each song, as they were recorded in one go. This way they would be able to pick their favourite afterwards.

    Somehow I feel that the popularity of the novelty instruments such as the kazoo and the Humanatone is only down to the need for 'black entertainment' by 'white audiences' in the Roaring Twenties... This is in line with the way the nose flute is seen these days: as a novelty, a gizmo, a silly little thing that can produce sound and even melodies, fun for a moment or two, but nothing more.

    Humour and entertainment in general some 100 years ago was quite different and pretty 'simple' compared to ours: only watch 'Comedy Capers' and you'll know. Someone playing a jug, a kazoo and a nose flute, making funny faces and dancing in a silly way would probably bedazzle the audience and make them laugh their heads off.

    Fortunately we have many people improving the instrument and improving play these days. We also have the Internet and this blog, so the future might look bright!

  3. Thank you Maikel! Yes, findings little details (the shop, and so) is as unexpected as exciting!

    Research goes on!