Minnie Black’s Revival Gourd Band was the focus of an art exhibit for the past month at the Angel Mounds State Historic Site. It was in that unique intersection of gardening and weird art, so I thought it was wonderful.
Minnie Black was born in 1899 in East Bernstadt, Kentucky. At some point she started growing gourds, and somehow it occurred to her to use these gourds to create sculptures and musical instruments. She pulled together a band of people she knew who lived at the nursing home, and they performed together. She became famous enough to even appear on “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson”.
An Evansville musician/artist discovered Minnie’s daughter selling some of Minnie’s art and instruments at a flea market and was intrigued. He bought some and worked to restore and rebuild them, taking them from interesting art objects to very functional musical instruments. He got his own group of musicians together, built a few additional instruments to round things out, and they started to practice. In February and March they gave two concerts. The instruments sounded way better than any garden produce deserves to sound.
Here are some of the strange creatures and people–all made from gourds:
And here are some of the instruments. The ones that don’t clearly have strings are the ones with harmonicas, kazoos, and nose flutes embedded in them:
And here are a couple of the performances. The band’s version of I’ll Fly Away (the last of the three videos below) was particularly wonderful.