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date: 21 November 2019

Jug bandlocked

  • Paul Oliver
  • , revised by Art Menius


An instrumental ensemble style developed by African Americans from the urban South in the 1920s and 30s as a popular novelty entertainment. The eponymous jug was a bass instrument into which a player made buzzing sounds with the lips so that the jug could act as a resonator. Louisville produced some of the earliest jug bands to record, including the Dixieland Jug Blowers, which employed two jugs on “Skip Skat Doodle Do” (1926), and Clifford Hayes’ Louisville Stompers. Despite some jazz connections through Johnny Dodds and Clarence Williams, the jug is mainly associated with blues groups. Will Shade’s Memphis Jug Band and Gus Cannon’s Jug Stompers were pre-eminent among Memphis jug bands. The former’s “K.C. Moan” and the latter’s “Going to Germany,” minor masterpieces of the genre from 1929, feature an interplay of harmonica or kazoo against strings and jug. Cannon is perhaps the best known of the banjo players who seemed essential to the Mississippi Valley jug bands of the 1920s. The style of Jack Kelly’s South Memphis Jug Band was more simplistic, as is demonstrated by “Highway no.61 Blues” (...

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