Jug Bands

A bowed bass was common in string bands, ragtime orchestras and early jazz bands such as Buddy Bolden's. A jug made a cheap, portable alternative. Bands featuring a jug were noted in Louisville and on Mississippi Riverboats by 1900, and in Memphis by 1910.


These bands focused on 'good-time' dance music, with plenty of current hits - whether Vaudeville or minstrel show pop songs, or ragtime, blues and jazz material.


Recordings by the Louisville bands, such as Earl McDonald's and Clifford Hayes show jazz and pop influence - 'Boodle-Am-Shake', ''Blue Guitar Stomp' or 'Everbody Wants My Tootlum'.

Ma Rainey and Jimmie Rogers used Jug Bands for recording, and there were even Sanctified Jug Bands.


Memphis Bands, like Gus Cannon's Jug Stompers, Will Shade's Memphis Jug Band, Jed Davenport's Beale Street or Jack Kelly's South Memphis Jug Band show the transition from ragtime to blues and jazz but maintain a more 'country' feel, with material such as 'Walk Right In', 'Stealin', 'Cocaine Habit', 'K.C. Moan', 'Caveman Blues' or 'Dirty Butter'.

String bands were common througout the South, originally playing a shared reportoire of dance tunes. White bands such as Charlie Poole's N.C.Ramblers or Gid Tanner's Skillet Lickers mainly stuck to old time fiddle tunes, breakdowns and minstrel and ragtime pop. Black bands like the Dallas String Band, Mississippi Sheiks,Georgia Cotton Pickers or Louie Bluie were more bluesy.


"The dancers went wild. Then I saw the beauty of primitive music. Folks would pay good money for it."

W. C. Handy

There was a revival of interest in Jug Band music,

begun in late 1950's by the Orange Blossom 5

(Sam Charters & Dave van Ronk), and continued in

the 1960's by the likes of the Jim Kweskin Jug Band and Even Dozen Jug Band, which nurtured the careers of

Maria Muldaur, Geoff Muldaur, Stefan Grossman,

Joshua Rifkin and John Sebastian.

Groups with Jug Band roots include;The Grateful Dead, Lovin' Spoonful and Country Joe and The Fish.


In the UK, bands included the Panama Jug Band,

Missouri Compromise, Honest John 3 and Mungo Gerry.


The 2007 film 'Chasin' Gus's Ghost' tells the story of Jug Bands, featuring many of the above artists.


Jug Band Contests are held in the USA http://www.jugbndbattle.net