One of my first assignments as Marketing and Public Relations Coordinator was to research the history of jug bands. Jug Bands? Musical groups whose sound revolved around whiskey jugs? My personal experience with jug band music consisted of Brisco Darling and his family band on reruns of The Andy Griffith Show. I certainly hadn’t heard of a resurgence of jug band music in today’s culture.
Jug bands, as it turned out, started right here in Louisville in the early 1900’s. Attorney Fred Cox, along with John Randolph and John Harris, traced the origins of the jug band craze to B.D. Tite and Black Daddy (the only known name for this gentleman). They used jugs along with a mix of traditional and homemade instruments to produce their unique sound. According to Cox, Tite and Black Daddy were musicians roaming the country looking for work when they stumbled upon a man making music by blowing on his whiskey jug. When they asked him about it, the man replied, “I just picked it up and started blowing.”
When the two men returned to Louisville, they brought with them a new sound, and the jug band craze started. In its heyday, Louisville bands played in major cities east of the Mississippi such as New York and Chicago. The music itself wasn’t recorded until 1926, when the Dixieland Jug Blowers (also known as the Louisville Jug Band) were signed with Black Swan Records. Other famous Louisville jug bands include the Cy Anderson Jug Band, Whistler and His Jug Band and the Kentucky Jug Band (a pseudonym of Phillip’s Louisville Jug Band).
The popularity of jug bands declined after the 1930’s when the Great Depression hit the nation. However, there have been resurgences in its popularity, both in the 1960’s and the 1990’s. Today, Louisville is home to The Juggernaut Jug Band, a group that has been around since 1965.
The Juggernauts were the featured band at this year’s Picnic Under the Trees at Oxmoor Farm, which was held June 17. I’ve never had so much fun working. The music was great, the atmosphere was relaxed and the rain held off until Saturday morning.
After this research and listening to jug music, one thing’s for sure: I’ll never look at a whiskey jug in the same way again.
**For more information on Jug Band history, you can check out these websites: