Charlie Burse

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Charlie Burse (August 25, 1901 – December 20, 1965)[1] was an African-American blues musician, best known for his skill with the ukulele. He was nicknamed "Uke Kid Burse" because of his talent, which extended to other musical instruments.

Burse learned to play banjo and guitar during his early life. He was also proficient with the tenor guitar and the mandolin. Additionally, Burse performed as a vocalist and could keep rhythm using the spoons.

Born in Decatur, Alabama,[1] he is famous as a member of Will Shade's Memphis Jug Band, which he joined in 1928 upon his arrival in Memphis, Tennessee. After meeting Shade, Burse would become his lifelong friend, and the two would play together long after the Memphis Jug Band made its last recording in 1934.

Shade and Burse exhibited notable differences in temperament. Shade was businesslike and orderly, acting as the band’s business manager and generating a substantial income from its recordings, enough to purchase a house for himself. Burse, in contrast, was described as "obnoxious and abusive at times" by music critics.[who?] Surprisingly, however, there seems to have been remarkably little tension between the two men in their personal and professional association.[citation needed]

Burse began his own short-lived band, the Memphis Mudcats, in 1939. The Memphis Mudcats attempted to modernize the traditional jug band; a bass was used instead of the jug, and the saxophone replaced the harmonica. In 1956, Burse and Will Shade were rediscovered and recorded by blues researcher Samuel Charters. In 1963 Burse and Shade collaborated on one of their last recordings, Beale Street Mess-Around.

After the band’s dissolution, Burse and Shade continued to work together until Burse's death on December 20, 1965; the two men would often play on street corners or at house parties. Their renown began to revive toward the end of their lives, especially triggered by their rediscovery by Charters.

Burse died of heart disease, and was buried in Rose Hill Cemetery in Memphis, Tennessee.[1]


  1. ^ a b c - accessed July 2010]