When the Jim Kweskin & The Jug Band formed in 1963, they breathed new life into the jug band music genre whose heyday had been several decades earlier. In the process, they inspired many bands, including the Grateful Dead and the Lovin’ Spoonful, played several times at the Newport Folk Festival, and had a helluva lot of fun.
The Jim Kweskin Jug Band broke up in the late 1960s, but on Saturday at the Lobero Theatre, key Jim Kweskin Jug Band members Jim Kweskin and Geoff Muldaur will be performing together, nearly 50 years after they first joined forces, with local musical treasures Tom Ball and Kenny Sultan as openers. The following gives excerpts from email interviews with Kweskin and Muldaur. Click here for the full interviews.
Get your tickets now for a good old time!
Jeff Moehlis: What can we look forward to at your concert in Santa Barbara?
Geoff Muldaur: Tunes spanning our careers. Quite a few tunes from The Harry Smith Anthology. Old, old ones and new, old ones. Our fiddler, Suzy Thompson, fits in with us real well; probably knows more obscure stuff than we do. I challenge ALL comers to show up and sound more like a 78 rpm record than we do. It can’t be done!!!
Jim Kweskin: Geoff and I have worked up a repertoire of exciting versions of songs from the Great Americana roots songbook. We do some songs from the old Jim Kweskin Jug Band days but we have also added some tasty new/old songs. I love playing music with Geoff.
JM: When Jim Kweskin & The Jug Band was formed almost 50 years ago, was anyone else performing jug band music? And what drew you to that style of music?
JK: When we started we were not aware of any other jug bands existing, although a few started up shortly after we became successful. To me, jug band music is a blend of traditional folk music and old-time jazz, both of which I love. I was and still am a fan of both Jelly Roll Morton and Woody Guthrie, Bix Beiderbecke and Leadbelly. The first jug bands I heard were the cuts by The Memphis Jug Band and Gus Cannon’s Jug Stompers on The Harry Smith Anthology Of American Folk Music on Folkways Records. They blew me away.
JM: Listening to the old Jim Kweskin & The Jug Band tracks, one gets the impression that you guys were having more fun than most other folk musicians at the time. Do you agree?
JK: Yes!! Big time. We were having a blast, although it was a lot of hard work and rehearsing. It takes hard work to make it sound easy.
GM: The scene in those days was very uptight. The “folk” acts all wore matching striped shirts, and had set patter. We showed up in street clothes and let ‘er rip. Later, (Jerry) Garcia and others did the same thing. Fun? You bet.
JM: What do you think is the legacy of Jim Kweskin & The Jug Band?
JK: We started something that still carries on today. We broke the mold of how to perform on stage. We were natural, no uniforms, no set joke patter, just improvised kidding around with each other, which included the audience in a way that hadn’t been seen before. Now, it’s the standard. People felt like they were a part of the show.
GM: I touched on it earlier, but The Jug Band was really the precursor of The Grateful Dead. Jerry’s first group was a Jug Band. This after hearing our first album. Our jug player, Fritz Richmond, was a style model for hipsters all over the world. He named Lovin’ Spoonful, was the first to wear those little round glasses, told way-out stories on the stage ... really the quintessential hipster. About the impromptu performances ... The first time we played The Troubadour in L.A., we were astounded by the square audience. There was very little connection. (Within a couple of years that would change). After our first set one night, a guy came to our dressing room, with a grin on his face and said, “I really love the “no schtick, schtick.”
JM: What are your plans, musical or otherwise, for the near future?
JM: Do you want to set the record straight on anything related to your music, career or life?
JK: Yes. I wear a cap because I’m bald.
GM: They made me do it!!
— Noozhawk contributing writer Jeff Moehlis is a professor of mechanical engineering at UCSB. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his Web site, music-illuminati.com.