Jugs to Jazz
Music in the Park
offers diverse talent this summer
Helen E. McKinney
CARROLLTON, Ky. (June 2003) Last year, visitors
to Gen. Butler State Resort Park were serenaded with a variety of musical
performances throughout the summer evenings. The Music in the
Park, Play It Again concert series will return to the park in
June, debuting with the Juggernaut Jug Band.
The concerts were a huge hit last year, said Evelyn Welch,
director of the Butler-Turpin State Historic House. The performances
will once again be held on the lawn of the home, giving the audience
a chance to learn about Carrolltons rich history through tours
of the home.
Jug Band performs
at the Kentucky State Capitol.
A few changes were made to the series by shortening the
list of performances to six instead of eight, with six different bands.
The concerts to be held early in the season will begin at 7 p.m. and
as daylight hours decrease, the concerts will begin at 6 p.m. River
Valley Winery will offer wine tasting in the ambiance of the stone kitchen
at the historic home.
A mixture of bands symbolizing Americana roots will perform selections
of jazz, bluegrass, folk, blues and Celtic music throughout the season.
The Juggernaut Jug Band will perform at 7 p.m. on June 28. Their music
can be characterized as jug music, an eclectic mix of jazz,
blues, swing and ragtime performed from makeshift instruments.
Welch said jug bands originated in Louisville. The bands sound
is reminiscent of the diverse musical talent found in Louisville between
1890 and the 1930s, when jug music flourished along the Ohio and Mississippi
At that time, it was not unusual to walk along downtown Louisville and
see African American musicians strolling along the streets while playing
tunes on homemade instruments. Anything that could produce a tune was
used, from empty liquor jugs (known as the poor mans tuba), to
kazoos and washboards. It was an era when musicians made use of whatever
instruments were at hand to express themselves.
During the folk revival of the late 60s, it became a popular trend for
bands such as the Juggernaut Band to perform songs by jug musicians.
The bands repertoire includes original songs, non-jug music and
traditional jug selections. The bands current lineup includes
Roscoe Goose on washboard, trumpet, cans, Jews harp, snare and
first jug; The Amazing Mr. Fish on walking bass, running nose flute
and washtub bass; Big Daddy T, whose command of world languages enables
him to play the guitar and sing in seven different languages; and guitarist
The band originated in 1965 when band member Goose got together with
some high school friends for a school show. Three years later, Fish
hooked up with the band. Various members have come and gone, the most
recent addition being that of Smiley Habanero in January 2003.
Big Daddy T said that when he joined in 1998, the band grew serious
about performing and touring. By playing approximately 170 shows a year,
This is a full-time endeavor for all the members of the band,
The bands music reflects many influences. They take the songs
of Clifford Hayes, Bobby Troup, the Doors, Duke Ellington, Gus Cannon
and Led Zeplin and revitalize them with their own jug band twist.
When the band was in its infancy, Big Daddy T cited Jim Kweskin, John
Sebastian and many folk revivalists as the major influence on their
performance style. Since that time the band has slowly evolved, incorporating
a jazzier feeling borrowed from Louisvilles jug bands and Clifford
Hayes and Earl McDonald, performers from the 1920s and 30s.
Jug music is also considered by some to be a descendant of minstrel
and early ragtime traditions, with a touch of jazz from the New Orleans
and Chicago areas of America. It has been described in The History
of the Blues by Francis Davis as the missing link between
blues and the music of West Africa.
During the early 1970s, Indianapolis attorney Fred Cox researched the
history of jug music but died in 1978 before publishing his findings.
With the help of two fellow interviewers, John Randolph and John Harris,
Cox questioned as many of the original jug musicians as he could track
down. He was able to trace the origins of the sound back to two Louisville
musicians, B.D. Tite, and a rambler simply known as Black Daddy.
So popular was this style of music that these two men performed a seven-year
Riverboat tour, accompanied by Cy and Charley Anderson. The jug band
sound could even be heard at the 1926 Kentucky Derby.
Welch said of the Play It Again series, I wanted this year to
satisfy many musical tastes. She called the Juggernaut Band a
band straight from Americana roots with a rich heritage from our area.
The band not only entertains their audiences with their light, upbeat
style but educates them as well. They also perform a childrens
show, geared toward elementary school children that teaches them how
to have fun with music without having to spend a lot of money
on instruments, said Big Daddy T.
The band has performed at the Executive Mansion of the Governor of Kentucky,
an invitation only performance. Big Daddy T said the band could be spotted
this fall at Actors Theatre of Louisville in the Shakespearean comedy,
As You Like It. If audience members want to catch the band
at another local performance, they can be seen at Wendell Moore Park
in Buckner, Ky., on July 4, from 6:30-8 p.m.
As to the future of jug music in Kentucky, Big Daddy T said it looks
pretty bright from where we are.
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