Tuesday, July 26, 2011

It Sounds So Sweet! The Wonderful World of Jug Band Music

The Dixieland Jug Blowers (source: The Red Hot Jazz Archive)

On Saturday, July 30, 2011 from 2:30 to 5:30 the Art, Music and Recreation Center and the California Jug Band Association will present "It Sounds So Sweet! The Wonderful World of Jug Band Music" in the Main Library's Koret Auditorium.

Paul Oliver in the New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments writes that the jug band is "an instrumental ensemble developed among black Americans in the 1920s and 1930s." Oliver notes that although the standard jug was an "earthenware demi-john," some musicians also used items like kerosene cans and stovepipes to get the desired effect.

Jug band music was originally most popular in the Mississippi and Ohio River valley cities of Memphis, Louisville and Cincinnati. Its influences can readily be found in the Chicago blues tradition and rock & roll but has experienced a re-emergence of its own in recent years. Jug band songs touch on all aspects of life – from the sad to the joyful and silly, from personal experiences to larger socio-political issues.

Saturday's program will cover all aspects of the music – its history, its practice and the experience of a live concert from a working jug band. Film clips of original and contemporary jug bands and the world premiere of the documentary film "Music in a Jugular Vein" will fill out an entertaining and informative afternoon.

The program will also include jug playing lessons with Pete Devine and Waxwing John Cowan and a live concert by Waxwing John and guests. All programs at the Library are free and open to the public.

Recommended reading:

The Country Blues by Samuel B. Charters (Da Capo Press, 1975) has a chapter entitled "Memphis Jug Bands."

The History of the Blues by Francis Davis (Hyperion, 1995) has a chapter entitled "Blues vaudevillians, jug bands, and medicine show songsters."

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