Jake liquor, Jake liquor, what in the world you tryin' to
Everybody in the city messed up on account of drinkin'
I drank so much Jake, it settled all in my head
I've drank so much Jake, until it settled all in my head
I rushed for my lovin', my baby turned her back to me
That's the doggoned diseases, ever heard since I been
You have numbness in front of your body, you can't
carry any lovin' on
Aunt Jane she come a-runnin', tellin' everybody in the
Aunt Jane, she come runnin' and screamin', tellin'
everybody in the neighborhood
That man of mine got the limber trouble, and his lovin'
can't do me any good
The doctor told me to tell you somethin', for your own
cravin' on this Jake
If you don't quit drinkin' that poison Jake you're
drinkin', it's gon' leave you with the limber leg -ISHMON BRACEY - "Jake Liquor Blues"
During Prohibition, alcoholic drinks of any sort were banned in the US. Ways people tried to get around the ban included marketing products as medicinal or "patent" medicines or adding adulterants to foil government testing of the product.
One such medicine was Jamaica Ginger known by the slang name "Jake". Jamaica Ginger itself was not poisonous; however, it had an ethanol content of about 80%. The government mandated that more ginger be added, which made the drink extremely bitter and difficult to drink in any quantity. A pair of bootleggers, Harry Gross and Max Reisman, added a chemical plasticizer which allowed their "Jake" to both pass government tests and remain palatable.
In March 1930, cases of a strange paralysis began to appear which stumped doctors. The most recognizable symptom was loss of muscle control in the legs and feet. Many victims developed a distinctive gait, a sort of high-knee, heel-toe walk which became known as "Jake Leg" or the "Jake Walk". The numbers climbed rapidly: 600 men in Johnson City, TN, almost 700 in Topeka, Kansas.
The medical community might have been puzzled, but the answer was there in the form of music. In March 1930 several blues musicians recorded songs featuring "Jake". Ishmon Bracey's "Jake Liquor Blues" demonstrates a clear knowledge that Jamaica Ginger was, in fact, responsible for the paralysis.
Eventually the paralysis was traced to the adulterated batches of Jamaica Ginger, but by then an estimated 20,000 to 50,000 victims had been permanently affected.