Mugg Muggles is renowned as the Wizard of the Washtub and Home-Made Kazooist extraordinaire. Mugg has played with Dennis Campagna’s Hokum Hotshots at both the San Francisco Jug Band Festival and the Martinez Jug Band Festival, and occasionally leads his Sizzling Syncopators at various Bay Area Venues; with able assistance by Accordion Ace Dorcas Moulton.
Mugg Muggles and the Jug Band Jam
Like “bluegrass” or “Celtic” or “folk”, “jug band music” is one of those catch-all, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink terms that doesn’t go very far in explaining what the music is really like.
There’s no real agreement where exactly it started. Somewhere in the minstrel shows and medicine shows of the Southern states, musicians starting putting together bands comprised of homemade improvised instruments. Jugs, kazoos, paper covered combs, even sections of stovepipes made up the horn section. Rhythm sections of guitars, mandolins, wash tub basses, and washboards laid out the beat. Banjo and harmonica were added to the mix. The size of the early bands and exact instrumentation seem to have been all over the map. The repertoire was rich and varied as well, incorporating blues, string band, hokum, novelty songs, ragtime, jazz, parlor songs, popular songs and more.
But the aim of these old bands left no room for doubt. They enlivened dances, juke joints, carnivals, Vaudeville shows, and street corners. They were found wherever a good time could be had.
Bands like the Dixieland Jug Blowers, Cannon’s Jug Stompers, the Memphis Jug Band, and the Mississippi Sheiks became popular performers in the early days of recordings. Big name acts like Ma Rainey, Tampa Red, Memphis Minnie, Bill Broonzy, and even Jimmie Rodgers cut sides with jug bands.
Though its heyday ended with the Great Depression, jug music has continued through the years. The jug revival of the early sixties spawned some of the most important rock bands of the era. Acts and performers as varied as Grateful Dead, the Mamas and the Papas, Jimmy Page, Norman Greenbaum, Country Joe and the Fish, and the Lovin’ Spoonful got their starts in jug and skiffle bands.
A whole new jug/string band revival is spreading coast to coast these days fueled by young bands and bolstered by old timers that go back to the days of Jim Kweskin’s Jug Band.