Thursday, June 24, 2010

In praise of the lowly jug

Somebody in the band had a guitar or perhaps a banjo or a fiddle. Another guy might have had a harmonica or a kazoo.
The rest of the ad hoc JUG BAND orchestra included such common household items as washboards, tubs and of course, jugs.
I have been listening to some jug-band blues music from the 1920s while driving around today.
"A great deal of the jug bands was due to the homemade, almost improvised nature of the instruments," wrote critic Richie Unterberger. "There were kazoos, washboards, washtubs, spoons and all manner of percussion produced by items more commonly associated with work tools or playthings, like jugs, but also pipes, pans and more. Even the relatively conventional instruments, like the fiddles and guitars, were sometimes made from scap materials, like cigar boxes."
Songs such as "New Minglewood Blues," "On the Road Again," "Walk Right In" and "Stealin' Stealin'" became standards and much-covered tunes, particularly by the back-to-the-basics proto roots bands of the 1960s, such as The Grateful Dead.
THE MEMPHIS JUG BAND, JED DAVENPORT'S BEALE STREET JUG BAND, CANNON'S JUG STOMPERS and MA RAINEY & HER TUB JUG WASHBOARD BAND are some of the acts on a 12-song playlist I have been enjoying.
"The jug bands were a tribute to the ingenuity shown by impoverished rural blacks in expressing themselves musically on whatever they found at hand" wrote Francis Davis in "The History of the Blues."
I love these songs because they are so catchy, and their old-time sound seems so unique to my modern music sensibilities.