Slide whistle

Chris Smith chris@SKERRIES.DEMON.CO.UK
Fri Nov 1 05:23:53 EST 1996

Charles D'Orban asked

>I was listening to the Yazoo Blind Blake CD the other night and I was very
>struck by a weird sounding instrument on C.C. Pill Blues (I think that's
>the right track).  My 1st reaction was to think that the Theremin (early
>form of synthesizer featured on Beach Boys Good Vibrations) was invented a
>lot earlier than I had realized.  The sleeve notes say that it is a "slide
>whistle".  What exactly is a "slide whistle"?

If anyone has one of these, can they describe it, please, as none of my
reference works does so. Meanwhile, I think a slide whistle is the same
thing as a swannee whistle. A whistle is formally described as 'an
end-blown flute in which the sound is produced by directing the player's
breath through a narrow channel and against a sharp rigid edge or lip.'
(New Grove.) A slide whistle, therefore, is such an instrument in which the
pitch of the note is alterable by a slide mechanism (as can be heard on the
Blake record referred to). Now the nose-flute (as in Whistler and His Jug
Band), that's something else again... I have one of these - made in Germany
of red plastic. You hold it against your upper lip, and direct the breath
against that rigid edge by way of your nose. Don't try this if you have a
cold. I guess Buford Threlkeld (which was Whistler's real name, poor guy)
must have fastened his nose flute to his head with string or elastic, since
he played guitar as well.

Chris Smith (
'All the rationalist can do when left to himself is to replace one
rationalist project in which he has failed by another in which he hopes to
succeed.' (Michael Oakeshott)

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