At 8 p.m. Saturday, Lobero Live will present a concert by Jim Kweskin and Geoff Muldaur, with Suzy Thompson on fiddle, and two folk-blues artists who certainly need no introduction in this community: Tom Ball and Kenny Sultan.
Kweskin and Muldaur, of course, are charter members of the Jim Kweskin Jug Band, founded in Cambridge, Mass., early on during that protean decade known as “the 1960s.” They released their first album in 1963 and their last in 1968. Several members of the Kweskin Jug Band — including Kweskin, Muldaur and Maria d’Amato (married to Muldaur from 1964 to 1972) — went on to have significant solo careers afterward and to work with other bands.
Not to slight Kweskin’s musical abilities or his genius as a musical entrepreneur, but it seems to me that the most charismatic personality in this duo is Geoff Muldaur. I first became aware of him, not through his work with the Jug Band, but through the three songs he recorded solo on the 1964 Elektra compilation album, The Blues Project — mainly his own composition, “Ginger Man.” There was a sleepy, rural sound to his blues that I found very attractive.
Later, when I heard him singing “Chevrolet” with his wife, Maria, on the Kweskin Jug Band LP See Reverse Side for Title, I discovered a much more dynamic side to his personality.
The Lobero Theatre publicity for this show features a well-known quote from English guitarist-songwriter Richard Thompson to the effect that, “There are only three white blues singers — Geoff Muldaur is at least two of them.” This is both clever and meaningless. I agree with Thompson to the effect that there is no “greater” white blues singer than Muldaur, but I contend that there are a lot more than three who are within range of being as good — Dave Van Ronk, Eric Von Schmidt, Danny Kalb, Dave Ray and John Koerner, to name just those who also recorded on The Blues Project album.
Nowadays, we are accustomed to speak of the 1960s as one continuous narrative, involving every part of the United States at once, but in most cases, we have in mind a much shorter span of time in a much smaller area — 1964-67 in San Francisco, say, or 1968 in Chicago. Politically, the decade was all turmoil and heartbreak; musically, however, and especially in terms of popular music, it is arguably the most vibrant and varied decade in the history of the United States.
Reminiscers often slight the years 1960-63, when we teenagers of the first wave of the baby boom were listening to folk music — either the “commercial” sound of clean-cut collegiate types like the Kingston Trio, or the “pure” and “authentic” renderings of Joan Baez, Odetta or Ewan MacColl.
Folk songs were, for us, the background music for the 1960 presidential campaign and the Kennedy administration. That is how the world sounded when Kweskin and Muldaur were starting out. The Beatles arrived on the scene so soon after the murder of President John F. Kennedy that it felt like a whole new decade starting — violent, loud and, for all the use of word “love,” pessimistic.
In the Lem Dobbs/Steven Soderbergh film The Limey (1999), the character of rock producer Terry Valentine (Peter Fonda) is clearly modeled on 1960s rock producer Terry Melcher (Doris Day’s son, and the actual target of Charlie Manson’s minions in the Tate LaBianca murders).
In one scene, Valentine’s girlfriend is taking a bath while Valentine flosses his teeth. She asks him about the 1960s. Valentine replies: “Did you ever dream about a place you’ve never actually been to before? Someplace far away and hard to get to? When you were there, though, you knew the language, you knew your way around. That was it, the 1960s. Or, no, it wasn’t even that. It was just 1966 and part of 1967. That’s all it was.”
Tickets to Kweskin-Muldaur are $30 and can be purchased from the Lobero box office at 33 E. Canon Perdido St. or 805.963.0761. Click here to order online.