Monkey stick

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Monkey stick
Photo of a group of Mendoza's or Monkey Sticks.jpg
Percussion instrument
Other namesMendoza, mendozer, Murrumbidgee river rattler, lagerphone, zob stick
Classification Percussion
Hornbostel–Sachs classification 112.12
(Frame rattles)

A monkey stick (also called a mendoza, mendozer, Murrumbidgee river rattler, lagerphone or zob stick) [1] is a traditional English percussion instrument, used in folk music. The origins of the name are not known but it is believed[ by whom? ] to stem from an association with Roma, Spanish and Italian buskers who were popular in London in the Victorian era. Alternatively, the name "Monkey Stick" could come from modern practice, in homage to the trained monkeys formerly used by buskers to solicit money from passersby.[ citation needed ] Some musicians have taken to fixing a small stuffed toy monkey to the tops of their instruments.


The instrument is constructed from a stout pole with metal "jingles" fastened at intervals along the shaft. These are commonly beer-bottle tops with a 1 inch washer in between the tops and the shaft to enhance the quality of the sound.[ citation needed ] Originally the end of the shaft is believed[ by whom? ] to have been covered with a rag to give some protection to the floor. A boot that might be attached to the base of the pole is a recent 'Zob Stick' addition.

When played on a wooden floor (common in ale-houses), the sound produced is a combination of a bass drum and tambourine. It can also be played with an additional small notched or serrated stick held in the other hand, allowing it to not only be shaken or hammered onto the ground, but also "bowed" to produce a combined clicking and rattling sound. Bands such as Groanbox, Zapoppin' and Dr. Busker have incorporated the monkey stick into their recordings and live shows.

Other names and versions

In Australia, this instrument constructed with beer-bottle tops is known as a lagerphone, [1] a variation of the traditional aboriginal instrument using shells. The same name and construction is found in New Zealand. The town of Brooweena in Queensland, Australia claims to hold the unofficial record when 134 people simultaneously played the lagerphone in 2009. [2]

In Newfoundland, it is referred to as an "ugly stick". In the Dutch province of Friesland this type of instrument is known as a 'kuttepiel'. In the American upper-Midwestern states of Minnesota and Wisconsin, the closely related stumpf fiddle or pogocello originated in Czech communities and adds small cymbals, strings, and a drum. A similar instrument, the batih, is found in Ukraine.

The "zob stick" variation of this instrument was constructed and named in 1968 by percussionist and songwriter Keef Trouble of the band Brett Marvin and the Thunderbolts and Terry Dactyl and the Dinosaurs, and included a sprung-boot attached to the bottom of the pole and a metal sleeve round its centre, to be hit with a serrated wooden stick. It is now, with the term ‘Lagerphone’, the most commonly used name for this instrument.[ citation needed ] The term 'zob' was taken from the British naval slang term for "penis".

See also

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  1. 1 2 The Bushwackers Australian Song Book, new edition 1981, published by Anne O'Donovan Pty Ltd, ISBN   0 908476 07 8  : Lagerphone or Murrumbidgee River Rattler. An upright pole with two crosspieces upon which are screwed beer bottle tops. The noise is made by hitting the instrument on the floor, at the same time striking the middle section with a solid piece of wood.
  2. "Unofficial lagerphone record set in Brooweena". ABC Wide Bay. Australian Brooadcasting Corporation. 9 June 2009. Retrieved 30 November 2009.