Before smart phones and personal computers, before the Beatles first appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, the Jim Kweskin Jug Band became the original Americana band, playing everything from classic blues to hillbilly country, ragtime, jazz, and rock and roll, perfectly capturing the 1960s mix of exuberant anarchy and heartfelt sincerity. Their unique blend of youthful energy and antiquarian expertise, tight musicianship and loose camaraderie took them from the Newport Folk Festival, where they were reliable crowd favorites, to multiple appearances on national television, where they baffled Johnny Carson by handing him a kazoo and inviting him to jam and once managed to convince Bette Davis to join them on washboard.
Other folk-blues revivalists were nostalgic, but the Kweskin gang were revolutionary hipsters. “It was just a pure love of music and a real community feeling,” says Maria Muldaur. That community centered around Jim, a formidable ragtime blues guitarist with a gift for good-time jazz. He pulled together a mismatched bunch of talented individuals: Geoff Muldaur singing blues with eerie soul and playing guitar, mandolin, and washboard, Maria Muldaur playing fiddle, kazoo, and tambourine and singing like a cross between a hillbilly lass and an old sexy blueswoman. Other band members included the banjo virtuoso Bill Keith and fiddler Richard Greene, both alumni of Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys. Joining those stalwarts tonight will be jug band young ’uns Sam Bevan on bass and Cindy Cashdollar on Dobro and steel guitar.
Fifty years down the road, the original members of the JKJB have separately kept making music in myriad configurations, but the Jug Band is where they started and there’s a special magic when they come back together. The rock critic Ed Ward once listed the most important bands of the early 1960s as the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, the Byrds, and the Jim Kweskin Jug Band, adding: “I'm not kidding.” Anyone who knows the Jug Band knows their eminent place in the annals of American music. The Kweskin gang made the jug band style of the 1920s sound fresher than ever. As Jim said, “We don’t sound like anybody ever sounded before. What we are doing is taking old styles and building new things out of them. We’re ourselves all the time.” This will be a once in a lifetime experience so come on out to the Freight and join these musical legends as they make jug band magic one more time!