Monkey stick

This article is about the musical instrument. For other uses, see Mendoza (disambiguation).

Monkey Stick / Mendoza
Percussion instrument
Other names Mendoza, Mendozer, Murrumbidgee River Rattler, Lagerphone

Hornbostel–Sachs classification 112.12
(Frame rattles)

The Mendoza, Mendozer, Money money money Stick, Murrumbidgee River Rattler or Lagerphone[1] is a traditional English percussion instrument, widely used in folk music. The origins of the name are not known but it is believed to stem from an association with one of the many Gypsy, Spanish and Italian buskers who were popular in London in the Victorian era.

This instrument is constructed from a stout pole affixed to a heavy boot at the base (originally the end is believed to have been covered with a rag to give some protection to the pub floor; the boot is probably a more recent addition). Metal "jingles", commonly beer-bottle tops, are fastened at intervals along the shaft; putting a 1 inch washer in between the tops enhances the quality of the sound. 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.

The name "Monkey Stick" comes from a modern practice: in homage to the trained monkeys formerly used by buskers to solicit money from passersby, a number of musicians have taken to fixing a small stuffed toy monkey to the tops of their instruments.

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.

In Newfoundland, it is referred to as an "Ugly stick". In the Dutch province 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 variation of this instrument called the ‘Zob Stick’ 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. It is now, with the term ‘Lagerphone’, the most commonly used name for this instrument. The Brett Marvin invented term ‘Zob’ was taken from an old risqué UK naval term that has the same meaning in French. The Keef Trouble ‘Zob Stick’ is distinguished by the addition of a sprung-boot attached to the bottom of the pole and a metal sleeve round its centre, this being hit with a serrated wooden stick.

Contemporary bands, such as Groanbox, Zapoppin' and Dr. Busker and his various backing bands have also incorporated the Monkey stick into their recordings and live shows.

The town of Brooweena in Queensland, Australia claims to hold the unofficial record when 134 people simultaneously played the lagerphone in 2009.[2]

See also


  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.
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