Juggernaut Jug Band

A bluegrass, country, jazz band.

Category: Genres: ,

Artist Bio

In the early part of this century, some Louisville musicians developed a unique and colorful new sound. It was a blend of classic jazz and blues, performed on guitar, violin, banjo, mandolin and all of the standard wind instruments. It had one strange and wonderful twist: the sound of the jug. That’s right, a jug! a stoneware crockery jug. It wasn’t used in that insipid manner portrayed by a toothless buffoon dressed in overalls sitting on a bale of straw surrounded by barnyard animals. It was not that hooty, hollow sound so many of us associate with a jug. Rather, it was an elegant, lyrical and haunting reverberation resembling a bow drawn across the strings of an upright bass. The good jug players were just as skilled on their instruments as Horowitz or Perlman were on theirs. The special quality of the jug definitely set these bands apart. Jug band musicians performed their music with energy, drive and enthusiasm, and most importantly, with a sense of humor. They are a part of American folk culture, having made recordings of their original music throughout the 1920’s and early 30’s.

Jug bands rose up from the streets and alleys of Louisville. They replaced the traditional set of drums with a washboard or spoons player so that they could move easily from place to place. They often had to be prepared for being chased off a street corner by the police, because wherever they went, a crown soon gathered-causing a traffic jam.

The washboard, spoons and the ever-present jug gave the jug bands a novelty image. This worked very well, because it added genuine entertainment value to this wonderful music. Audiences delighted in seeing a jug band as well a s in hearing one. What people heard was a scintillating and often spontaneous fusion of music and entertainment. These were proud men, who would laugh, strut and dance as they played and sang. Their songs were full of fun and sexual humor. On top of all this, many of these players were trained musicians, who played their instruments with great virtuosity.

Louisville’s social elite were the biggest financial supporters of jug band music. No high society party was complete without a jug band. In addition to their support, perhaps the greatest influence in molding and shaping jug bandmusic was the Kentucky Derby. Before World War 11 the sound of jug bands emanated from downtown taverns and street corners during the week before the Derby. Jug bands were in friendly competition to be chosen by rich, out of town guests to play their private parties in their suites at the Brown, Seelbach and other downtown hotels. A jug ban was the ultimate party band. This atmosphere of gaiety and frivolity associated with the Derby may best explain the novelty and fun approach of Louisville jug band music.

Just as New Orleans is the birthplace of jazz, Louisville is the home of jug band music. It seems a well-kept secret. Ironically, the blues influenced Memphis jug bands are better known today-even though they got their start in the 1920’s by listening to Louisville jug band recordings!

On a broader scale noted folk historian Samuel Charters wrote in 1963: “In an important sense, the jug bands and their music will always be part of the American musical scene. On the early recordings there is still the sound of the jug band, with all its swagger, all of its sensitivity, and in a sense, all of its musical grandeur”.


Song List

Aint Nobody Here But Us Chickens
Barbeque On Broadway
Big Legs
Black Dog
(The) Blues My Naughty Sweetie Give To Me
Borneo Bay
Bright Lights, Big City
Bring It With You When You Come
Chicken Aint Nothin’ But A Bird
Chicken Pie
Christopher Columbus
Clef Club/Petters Stomp
Coney Island Washboard
Desolation Row
Diga Diga Do
Don’t Get Around Much Anymore
Drive-In Show
Fishin’ Blues
Foldin’ Bet
Georgia Crawl
Greenwood Tree
Hawaiian Holiday
Hamburger Pie
Hold It Right There
I’m Crazy ‘Bout My Baby
I’m Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter
Jug Band Music
Jug Band Tango
Kelele Lady
Kokomo Hum
Looney Breakdown
Minnie The Moocher
Minnie The Moocher’s Wedding Day
Oh Bla Di
Old Joe’s Hittin’ The Jug
Old Yazoo
On The Road Again
Paper Moon
People Are Strange
Pinball Wizard
Route Sixty-Six
Ruokus Juice
San Francisco Bay Blues
Sheik Of Araby
Sister Kate
Somethin Elemental
Sweet Lorraine
The Skin Song
3 Steps
Town Pump/Variety Stomp
Under The Chicken Tree
Washboard Highway
Washboard Man
Wash Your Face And Leave
Who Walks In When I Walk Out
Wipe Out
You Ought To Move Out Of Town