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Jim Kweskin Jug Band Still Performing After 50 Years

The Jim Kweskin Jug Band performs at the 1964 Newport Folk Festival. From left: Mel Lyman, Maria Muldaur, Geoff Muldaur, Jim Kweskin and Bill Keith. (Photo courtesy Jim Kweskin/Joe Alper)
The Jim Kweskin Jug Band performs at the 1964 Newport Folk Festival. From left: Mel Lyman, Maria Muldaur, Geoff Muldaur, Jim Kweskin and Bill Keith. (Photo courtesy Jim Kweskin/Joe Alper)

In turn-of-the-century America, the music you could hear in cities up and down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers was jug band music. It was unconventional, raw and hugely popular.

The musicians were largely African-American and poor. Their instruments were a product of ingenuity. The jug was usually an empty liquor bottle – they called it the poor man’s tuba. The household washboard became percussion. Put them together with a kazoo, harmonica, and maybe a banjo, and you get a group like the Memphis Jug Band, which formed in the mid-1920s.

Some 40 years after that recording, the good old jug band sound was again heard across a wider swath of America – thanks in part to a man named Jim Kweskin.

The Jim Kweskin Jug Band has been performing for more than 50 years, and it’s still touring with some of its earliest members – Geoff Muldaur, Maria Muldaur and, of course, Jim Kweskin.

Here & Now’s Lisa Mullins caught up with the group as they were preparing for a show at the City Winery in New York City.

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