From Jugs to Jazz

Carrollton’s ‘Music in the Park’
offers diverse talent this summer

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

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 Carrollton’s rich history through tours of the home.

Juggernaut Jug Band

Juggernaut 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 band’s 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 River cities.
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 man’s 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 band’s repertoire includes original songs, non-jug music and traditional jug selections. The band’s current lineup includes Roscoe Goose on washboard, trumpet, cans, Jew’s 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 Smiley Habanero.
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,” he said.
The band’s 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 Louisville’s 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 children’s 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.”

Back to June 2003 Articles.



Copyright 1999-2015, Kentuckiana Publishing, Inc.

Pick-Up Locations Subscribe Staff Advertise Contact Submit A Story Our Advertisers Columnists Archive Area Links Area Events Search our Site Home Monthly Articles Calendar of Events Kentucky Speedway Madison Chautauqua Madison Ribberfest Madison Regatta