Geoff and The Birdies
Those jug band aficionados amongst you are well aware of the influence that Geoff
Muldaur had on the resurgence of jug band music in the 60's, and his continuing
influence on through the present time. For those newcomers who are looking for jug
band info, you'll find that many of the jug bands (especially those of a certain age!)
on the internet will list Geoff Muldaur as a seminal influence on the original idea
to even have a band.
Geoff was one of the founding members of The Jim Kweskin Jug Band, whose base of
operations was Cambridge MA. The Kweskin band was inspirational in the formation
of The Dirdy Birdies in 1965, and we still hold hallowed those early 60's Vanguard
recordings that resurrected the spirit of the original jug bands and other country
Geoff was the washboard player in the band, and supplied some of the finest vocals
that the band produced in those days. If you hear a single plaintive voice combining
blues, jazz, gospel and soul coming from some of those tracks, chances are it's
Geoff. Listen to Wild About My Loving and My Gal on Vanguard's
Jim Kweskin and The Jug Band: Greatest Hits (VCD-13/14). Geoff and his
wife Maria, who played fiddle in the band, formed a very potent vocal duo. Listen to
Chevrolet and That's When I'll Come Back to You on the same CD. After
the breakup of the band, Geoff and Maria went on to produce several LP's on their own.
Although none of them ever received popular acceptance, that's only because most record
companies have always tended to take the easy way out when deciding where to put
their advertising and promotional dollars. And that's never changed. And of course,
Maria Muldaur went on to a successful pop career.
anyway, the good news is that after almost 20 years away from the recording studio,
Geoff has recently released a new CD, The Secret Handshake (HCD8097,
Hightone Records), and is touring to support the CD.
The first thing you should do is go to CDNOW, and
order the CD. Then, go to Pollstar, which is a
site where you can look up the touring schedule of just about any musician. Do a
search for Geoff, and if you're lucky enough to be living near where he's playing,
DO NOT MISS HIM! You just never know if he'll disappear again for another 20 years.
The third step is to try and track down Geoff's other recordings; some are easier
to find than others due to some of the relationships he's forged over the years.
For example, CDNOW carries the Paul Butterfield/Better Days recordings in which
Geoff plays a large role. His earlier recordings are a bit harder to find, but due
to my diligent research, I've managed to find an internet site in Germany that carries
many of Geoff's early recording, which are available on CD as imports. Go to
Cyber CD and have a look. My personal
recommendation: Geoff Muldaur's Having a Wonderful Time.
Recently, three of the Birdies trekked into the wilds of north western NJ to
The Stanhope House, a two hundred year old
former stage coach stop and inn, to see Geoff. It was the perfect setting to see the
master. The last time I saw Geoff was around 1973 at The Bottom Line in NYC. He had a
full band; drums, guitar, a horn section (to drive the jazz arrangements that permeate
lots of his music), and he played the piano. It remains one of the most memorable nights
of live music I've ever experienced. At Stanhope, Geoff walked in alone, carrying a
guitar, a banjo and a box of CD's, and that's how he performed. All alone. It was magic.
He performed most of the material from the new CD, some older classics from various
sources, and, as a nod to the not one, but two jug bands in the audience, Wild
About My Loving. He also embellished the liner notes that accompany the CD
during the show, explaining the impetus for the original tunes, and telling the
stories behind the covers. Geoff's led a varied an interesting life that's brought
him from the wealthy suburbs of New York City to the deep South, chasing after the
spirit of American music. He credits his jazz-loving older brother for much of his
early interest, and the CD is dedicated to him.
Geoff is in his mid-fifties, he looks about 35, and his voice is better than ever, so
there must be something to this music. And since the crowd was significantly smaller
than say, a Bruce Springsteen show at The Meadowlands, Geoff was able to, and more than
willing to, interact with all of us, including posing for a picture with two of the
world's oldest groupies! That's Ben Dover on the left, and Fender McT-Bird on the right.
It was a great show...don't miss him.
And thanks Geoff!