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The Jug Band for the Millenium

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The following article and recommendations were written by Rich Fedorchak, lead singer emeritus and spiritual leader of The Dirdy Birdies Jug Band, who is now living in the wilds of Vermont.


The unique musical form known as jug band music had its beginnings in the United States among southern black musicians during the 1920's. The centers of musical activity were river port towns such as Louisville, Memphis and New Orleans, where these musicians formed loosely-knit groups to entertain in the many speakeasies and dance halls that thrived in these cities.

While the backbone of the jug band sound was the blues, the repertoires of these bands were culled from a wide variety of musical styles including country dance, string band, ragtime, jazz and popular music. These songs often had a light-hearted, comical, ribald flavor.

In addition to playing standard blues instruments like the guitar and harmonica, jug band musicians made use of instruments more commonly associated with country string band music, like the fiddle, banjo and mandolin. But, the cardinal feature of this music (and the origin of the name "jug band") was the use of a variety of homemade instruments to produce unusual melodic and rhythmic colorings. These instruments included the kazoo, washboard, washtub bass, spoons, jews harp, and, of course, the empty whiskey jug. The best of these original jug bands were the Memphis Jug Band, led by Will Shade, and Gus Cannon's Jug Stompers.

The initial jug band "renaissance" came to a rapid end during the 1930's, corresponding to the decline of the American economy at that time. During the folk music revival of the 1960's, jug band music made a comeback in popularity when a number of jug bands appeared on the scene. Among these bands was the Jim Kweskin Jug Band, which took the music to new heights of sophistication.

Now, in the 1990's the jug band tradition is being kept alive and well in the music of The Dirdy Birdies Jug Band, originally formed in 1965. Mixing traditional jug band sounds and instruments, with generous helpings of ragtime, bluegrass, gospel, country, blues and rock 'n roll, they are playing good time music at it's best.

. Sam Charters, Sweet as the Showers of Rain, Oak Publications, 1977
. Paul Oliver, The Story of the Blues, Chilton Books, 1969
. Harold Courlander, Negro Folk Music, Columbia U. Press, 1963
. Dallas Cline, How to Play Nearly Everything, Oak Publications, 1977
. Barbara Stewart, How to Kazoo, Workman Publishing, 1983
. Larry Sandberg and Dick Weissman, The Folk Music Sourcebook,
DaCapo Press, 1989
. Bengt Olsson, Memphis Blues, Studio Vista, 1970
. Fred Cox, John Randolph and John Harris, The Jug Bands of
Louisville, Storyville Publications

.Endangered Species, The Dirdy Birdies Jug Band
162 Newark Ave., Bloomfield, NJ 07003
. The Great Jug Bands, Origin Jazz Library
. More of that Jug Band Sound, Origin Jazz Library
. Jug, Jook and Washboard Bands, Blues Classics
. The Memphis Jug Band, Yazoo Records
. Jim Kweskin and The Jug Band: Greatest Hits, Vanguard Records
. Jug Band Blues, Mountain Railroad
. Nashville Jug Band, Rounder Records
. Cannon's Jug Stompers: The Complete Works, Yazoo Records
. Good Time Blues:
Harmonicas, Kazoos, Washboards and Cowbells, Legacy
. Washboard Sam: Rockin' My Blues Away, S.O.B.
. Beat It, Blow It, Strum It, Hum It, The Sunshine Skiffle Band,
Flying Fish Records
. Peter and the Wolf, Dave Van Ronk, Alcazar Records

Yes...finally! After almost a year in production, Guano Records and
are proud to announce the release of
For ordering information, a run-down of what's included on the newest offering from The Jug Band for The Millennium,

look here.

Of course, since our first CD, Endangered Species, was a million seller (I gotta million in my cellar), we still have a bunch left. If you're one of the few laggards left in the world look here for ordering info...

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Last Updated: April 15, 2003