“Reliance” No. 90 Wash Board (Skiffle Board)

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Pete Shotton was the Percussionist (Washboard player) in The Quarrymen skiffle group from about 1956-57. Shotton’s instrument was likely a “Reliance” No. 90 wash board.
A wash board is a tool designed for hand washing clothing. However, with mechanized cleaning of clothing becoming more common by the middle of the 20th century, the wash board became better known for its use as a musical instrument.
As the skiffle craze took hold in Britain during the late 1950’s, many young lads formed skiffle groups. It has been estimated that there were over 30,000 groups across the island. The skiffle group instruments usually consisted of guitars, drums, banjos, basses made from old tea chests and of course wash boards.
The wash board was used as a percussion instrument by employing the ribbed metal surface of the cleaning device as a rhythm instrument. As traditionally used, the wash board remained in its wooden frame and was played primarily by tapping, but also scraping the surface with fingernails and thimbles.
The British made “Reliance” No.90 wash board was widely available in the U.K. during the 1950’s. Being fairly inexpensive, it is no surprise to see it in old photographs being used by many skiffle bands of the era.
The vintage “Reliance” No. 90 wash board in our collection is similar to the one that would have been used by Pete Shotton in The Quarrymen.
Pete Shotton (far right) on stage with the Quarrymen likely playing a “Reliance” No. 90 wash board.

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