The A to Z Challenge – J for Jug Band

The A to Z Challenge is on! Hello and welcome to my main blog. My name is Rose Anderson and I’m a romance novelist. Join me and more than 2279 bloggers and authors as we blog the alphabet throughout the month of April. My daily posts will be mostly history with some science topics here and there. I’ve chosen subjects that tickle my fancy, I hope you will find them interesting too.

Keep the topic rolling! If you have comments or questions, add them at the end of the post. I may not know the answer off the top of my head but I love research and would enjoy discussing my topics further. Comments can be made just below my bio in the tag section.

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Today’s Calliope’s Writing Tablet post is brought to you by the letter J ~
J for Jug Band

I heard  a story recently about how an abundance of empty whiskey jugs from the bourbon-fragrant streets of Louisville Kentucky led to an American music form — jug band. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but it’s a cute story.

The musical pastiche of jug band was at its root a poor man’s pastime. You didn’t need money when love of music and sheer joy played tunes on anything one could wrangle a tune out of.  As a world drummer who finds music latent in all sorts of things, I understand this. I play a few odd instruments myself — spoons and bones, and a washboard with thimbles. I’ve even played tabletops, glass bottles, and the occasional iron gate! Needless to say, jug band intrigues me.  😀 

Instruments were mostly home made: washboards and scraping thimbles kept time. Mouths blowing into empty jugs produced tuba sounds. Washtubs or gut-buckets played bass while cigar-box or gourd-bottom fiddles, bowed saws, spoons, and paper-on-comb kazoos played melody. If you were lucky, a neighbor might join in with a real guitar, banjo, or harmonica. Jug band music was popular in the old vaudeville days between 1880 and the 1930’s, and often appeared in traveling medicine shows, on riverboats, and in southern honky-tonks.

I think one of the coolest things about this improvised music style was how it influenced other music such as Jazz, the Blues and eventually Rock. Examine it further and you’ll see American skiffle and that musical style eventually influenced the Beatles. Skiffle, by the way, was “rent party” music. Gathering musicians together and charging a few cents to hear them allowed you to make your rent payment — a popular idea in the 1920’s. I know a young couple who do that today, quite successfully too.

So many music greats started in jug band. Bands like Jimmy Bertrand’s Washboard Wizards, Clarence Williams’ Seven Gallon Jug Band and Washboard Five, The Mound City Blue Blowers, Ma Rainey’s Tub-jug Band, and many more, gave a start to several music legends. Greats like Louis Armstrong, King Oliver, Jimmy Dorsey, Gene Krupa, and Glen Miller all cut their musical teeth here.

The USA and Great Britain saw a Jug band revival in the 1950’s.

Few people know the effect of jug band on the music we grew up on. The Even Dozen Jug Band had musicians John Sebastion and Steve Katz. John Sebastion went on to form The Lovin’ Spoonful and Steve Katz joined Blood Sweat and Tears. Zal Yanovsky of The Lovin’ Spoonful got his start in The Mugwamps Jug Band as did Cass Elliot and Denny Dougherty who later formed The Mommas and the Papas. Gerry Garcia from Mother McCree’s Jug Champions went on to form the Grateful Dead. My favorite, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, had John McEuen and is still pickn’ and grinnin’. 

In the UK, the Midnight Special Skiffle Band had Van Morrison who was also in the Sputniks Skiffle Band. The Kingston’s Bucktown Skiffle Group had Mick Jagger. Singer Cliff Richards sang in the Dick Teague Skiffle Group. A whole slew of folk musicians played Skiffle and so did Rock musicians like Roger Daltrey, Jimmy Page, David Gilmour, and Robin Trower. Graham Nash and Allan Clarke of The Hollies were all in lesser Skiffle bands. Ringo Star also played in the Eddie Clayton Skiffle Group around the same time John Lennon was forming The Quarrymen Skiffle Band with Paul McCartney and George Harrison which eventually became the Beatles. From here on is a post for another day…


Here’s an interesting trailer for a documentary called Chasin’ Gus’ Ghost about Gus Cannon and the impact of jug band on other music.

My washboard needs some spiffing up!

David Holt can teach you to play some unusual instruments, and youtube is filled with his videos. I could spend all day watching him. I once saw him play a bag of potato chips. Now that’s improvisation.

I had such a hard time choosing the visuals for today’s post. There are so many terrific examples online. If you want to smile, look up the Yokohama Jug-Band Festival on youtube.

Tomorrow ~ letter K!


Authors_in_Bloom-300x250**NEW THIS WEEK** on my satellite blog!

It’s Day5 in the Authors in Bloom event. It highlights those things authors do outside the fiction. We garden, we cook, we craft etc. One of the more unusual things my husband and I have done was lead wild foods programs for Chicago’s Field Museum. For this event I’ll be sharing my recipes. Do stop by. You may have delicious ingredients waiting in your backyard!


It’s the final stretch in the 100 Things Blogging Challenge!
For nearly 100 days, 002xbqkt
I’ve posted from my chosen topic: Words on the Verge of Extinction. There are 2 entries to come.

Here’s one for today:

Ectylotic (adjective 1736-1864)
removing warts or calluses


4 Us iconSee what’s happening on the RB4U blog today

Our April contest is on. We’ll have 3 winners and a lot of prizes to split among them.


Love Waits in Unexpected Places –
Scorching Samplings of Unusual Love Stories
Download your copy of my free chapter sampler!all7books-small




About ~RoseAnderson

Rose Anderson is an award-winning author and dilettante who loves great conversation and delights in discovering interesting things to weave into stories. Rose also writes under the pen name Madeline Archer.
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4 Responses to The A to Z Challenge – J for Jug Band

  1. skmarshall2014 says:

    Rose, I have a friend who was in Tucson for the winter, and they started playing washboards. An interesting post.

    • Thanks Sandy. I’d sure love to sit in on that. 🙂 I found an old junky washboard to affix cans and bells and blocks to, but the thing plays so loud it drowns out everyone else so I rarely play it. I think I need to put tape on the back or something. Or just get a smaller board.

  2. Ray G says:

    Let’s not forget Zydeco. In the movie The Big Easy There was a Zydeco band with a washboard in the final scenes.

    I’ve seen jug bands in movies and on TV. I can make different sounds blowing on a 20 ounce soda bottle. I even hold one out the car window. The angle to the wind determines the tone.

    Your posts are so impressive, so educational.

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