Bibliography, Free Show Tonight


Burt, William P. Back-Stage with a Medicine Show Fifty Years Ago. The Colorado Magazine 19 (July 1942): 127-36.

Burton, Thomas G. (ed.) Tom Ashley, Sam McGee, Bukka White: Tennessee Traditional Singers. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1981.

Calhoun, Mary. Medicine Show: Conning People and Making Them Like It. New York: Harper & Row, 1976.

Holbrook, Stewart H. The Golden Age of Quackery. New York: Macmillon, 1959.

Hoyt, Harlowe R. Town Hall Tonight. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1955.

Johnston, Winifred. Medicine Show. Southwest Review 21 (Summer 1936): 290-99.

Kelley, Thomas P., Jr. The Fabulous Kelley: He was King of the Medicine Men. Richmond Hill, Ontario: Simon & Schuster of Canada, 1967.

McNamara, Brooks. Step Right Up. Garden City: Doubleday, 1976.

McNeal, Violet. For White Horses and a Brass Band. Garden City: Doubleday, 1947.

Miller, Art Doc. Medicine Show Tonight! Bandwagon 16 (July-August 1972): 20-22.

Noell, Mae. Recollections of Medicine Show Life. In American Popular Entertainment, pp. 215-25. Ed. By Myron Matlaw. Westport, Ct.: Greenwood, 1979.

Oliver, N.T. and Stout, Wesley. Alagazam: The Story of Pitchmen High and Low. The Saturday Evening Post, 19 October 1929, 26ff.

______. Med Show. The Saturday Evening Post, 14 September 1929, 12ff.

Oliver, Paul. Conversations with the Blues. New York: Horizon Press, 1965.

Rapp, Augustus. The Life and Times of Augustus Rapp, the Small Town Showman. Chicago: Ireland Magic Company, 1959.

Strausbaugh, John Black Like You: Blackface, Whiteface, Insult & Imitation in American Popular Culture Tarcher/Penguin, 2006

Webber, Malcolm. Medicine Show. Caldwell, Idaho: Caxton Printers, 1941.

Young, James Harvey. The Medical Messiahs. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1967.

_________. The Toadstool Millionaires. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1961.


Born for Hard Luck. A portrait of the black medicine show peformer Arthur “Peg Leg Sam” Jackson, including footage shot at an actual med show in North Carolina. Jointly produced by Tom Davenport Films and the Curriculum in Folklore of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Distributed by Davenport films.


Music was always an essential element of the medicine show. Traditionally performed as a bally to attract the crowds, music was also featured throughout the show. Old-time string bands, unaccompanied quartets, brass ensembles, solo instrumentalists and jug bands all worked the stage, playing traditional tunes, popular favorites, parodies, and novelty pieces. The following discography lists representative recordings by Anglo- and African-American traditional musicians with med show experience; ethnicity is indicated respectively with a w or b.

Good For What Ails You: Music of the Medicine Shows, 1926-1937, 48 classic performances by Pink Anderson, Daddy Stovepipe, Gid Tanner, Blind Sammie, Bogus Ben Covington, Fiddlin' John Carson, Banjo Joe, Shorty Godwin, Beans Hambone, Emmett Miller & His Georgia Crackers, the Three Tobacco Tags. The CD comes with an illustrated History of the Medicine Shows, many rare photographs and firsthand accounts never before published, plus full discography and song descriptions. w and b. October 2005 Release. (Old Hat CD-1005)

The albums by Tommy Scott and Curley Sechler and by Charlie Monroe's Kentucky Partners are transcriptions of early radio programs sponsored by pharmaceutical companies. Both records include medicine advertisements, clearly demonstrating the transition from the traveling doc's lecture to the radio announcers abbreviated pitch.

Pink Anderson. Volume 2: Medicine Show Man. Prestige-Bluesville 1051 (currently out of print). (b)

Cannons Jug Stompers. Herewin 208. (b)

Bo Carter. Greatest Hits. Yazoo 1014. (b)

Harmonica Frank Floyd. The Great Original Recordings of Harmonica Frank. Puritan 3003 (currently out of print). (w)

______. Harmonica Frank Floyd. Adelphi 1023.

Duke of Paducah (Whitey Ford). At the Fair. Starday 288 (currently out of print). (w)

Peg Leg Sam (Arthur Jackson). Medicine Show Man. Trix 3302. (b)

______ and Chief Thundercloud. The Last Medicine Show. Flyright 507-508 (currently of out print).

Jim Jackson. Kansas City Blues. Agram 2004. (b)

Snuffy Jenkins, Pappy Sherrill and the Hired Hands. Carolina Bluegrass. Arhoolie 5011. (w)

______. Crazy Water Barn Dance. Rounder 0059.

______. 33 Years of Pickin' and Pluckin'. Rounder 0005.

Uncle Dave Macon. Laugh Your Blues Away. Rounder 1028. (w)

______. Uncle Dave Macon and the Fruit Jar Drinkers. County 455.

Asa Martin and the Cumberland Rangers. Dr. Ginger Blue. Rounder 0034. (w)

Memphis Jug Band. Yazoo 1067. (b)

Charlie Monroe's Kentucky Partners. Noonday Jamboree. County 538. (w)

Tommy Scott. Rambling Tommy Scott and Curley Sechler: Early Radio, 1941. Old Homestead 125. (w)

______. Tommy Scott's Original Georgia Peanut Band at the Medicine Show. Concorde 005.

Frank Stokes. Creator of the Memphis Blues. Yazoo 1056. (b)

Gig Tanner and His Skillet Lickers. At the County Fair. Old Homestead 145. (w)

______. The Kickapoo Medicine Show. Rounder 1023.