Several decades before Bob Dylan recorded his breakthrough “Highway 61 Revisited” album, the folk-blues song “Highway No. 61” was interpreted by numerous blues singers including Charlie Pickett, Memphis Minnie and Joe McCoy, The Sparks Brothers and others. Jack Kelly & His South Memphis Jug Band recorded this classic version with fiddler Will Batts on vocal duties. According to Dylan, when he told his record label the title of his new album in 1965, they didn’t understand it, and only agreed to let him call the record what he wanted after to he went all the way “up the fucking ladder” to insist on it. The rest is history.
Another important figure in early Jug Music, Clifford Hayes was born in 1895 in Glasgow, Kentucky. Hayes played fiddle with the Earl McDonald Jug Band in nearby Louisville, the birthplace of Jug music. He later started his own band, and recorded with Sarah Martin and other notables. Jug music was a huge social and musical phenomenon in the late 19th and early 20th century, which happened to coincide with the dawn of recorded music. We are fortunate to have these clear audio glimpses into the past, and “Dance Hall Shuffle” more than lives up to its name. Such a great ensemble performance of piano, guitar, banjo, washboard, fiddle and the kitchen sink.
King David’s Jug Band was a popular attraction in Cincinnati, Ohio’s West End in the early 20’th century. Named for guitarist David Crockett, the group also featured Sam “Stovepipe” Jones on, well, just about everything. As a “one-man band” performing in speakeasies during prohibition and on the street, Jones played guitar, harmonica and kazoo (through a stovepipe!) all at once, while sporting a stovepipe hat (of course!). As King David’s Jug Band, they recorded six sides for Okeh Records. “Sweet Potato Blues,” provides a glimpse of this eccentric and very talented act.
The Dixieland Jug Blowers fused the traditional Jug Band lineup of jug, banjo, guitar and fiddle, with jazz woodwinds, brass and piano. In fact the band was a combo of two separate groups run by jug player Earl McDonald and fiddler Clifford Hayes. Their musical innovations, immortalized on Victor Records, influenced other groups including the Memphis Jug Band. The “oompa oompa” tuba and carefree melodic interplay on “Boodle-Am Shake” set up a cartoonish vocal refrain perfectly, on this classic and joyous recording.
Jug music pioneer and Memphis blues great Will Shade created most of his over 100 recorded sides as leader of the Memphis Jug Band. But he also created a few solo tracks along the way, including this piano blues gem called “Better Leave That Stuff Alone.” A classic 78 RPM record with a timeless message.
An American music institution, The Memphis Jug Band was active from the 1920’s all the way through the late 1950’s. Their repertoire over the years encompassed a wide variety of styles – folk, ballads, blues and jazz – and of course, jug music! “Stealin’ Stealin'” was recorded in Memphis, Tennessee in 1928, with bandleader Will Shade presiding on harmonica. A great track from the early stages of this storied band, from the vinyl 78RPM to your eardrums in hi-res mp3 format.
In his long career, Robert Wilkins tutored musicians such as Furry Lewis, Memphis Minnie and even Son House, and provided inspiration for Muddy Waters, the Rolling Stones and many others who followed. Wilkins’ fingerpicking style and unique voice are in fine form here on this vintage recording of “That’s No Way To Get Along.”
Frank Stokes and Dan Sane recorded for Paramount Records in the 1920s as the Beale Street Sheiks. A busy live performer, Stokes entertained in every type of venue, and also became a popular recording artist when audio recording was still a new medium. “Jazzin’ the Blues” does exactly what the title suggests, and it highlights Frank Stokes’ pioneering Memphis blues guitar style.
Gus Cannon and his Jug Stompers helped define jug music, and how the banjo was used in popular music, in the early 1900s. Derived from spiritual and early folk music, its influence is still felt today.