The Christmas Jug Band Story - A momentary lapse of sanity that became an annual holiday tradition spanning 25 years.
A small group of pals living in Mill Valley, California, in the mid 70s with a penchant for Kentucky bourbon formed Monday Night Wild Turkey Jug Band. From Yellow Springs, Ohio, Gregory Leroy "Duke Dagreeze" Dewey (Mad River, County Joe & the Fish, Marty Balin), his brother - Nicholas Q (Not Joe) Dewey, and their partner in "The Reptile Brothers Band," Tim Eschliman (Commander Cody, Etta James) started the weekly Appalachian-style jug jams with the Deweys' roommate, Paul Wenninger (from Chicago, road manager for Van Morrison, Dan Hicks).
Spur-of-the-moment street corner appearances, instigated by Dan Hicks (Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks) around the same time also had a jug band instrumentation and included many of the same musicians. The Monday Night Wild Turkey sessions lasted only 10 weeks, but had many guests stopping by, including Hicks; L. D. Armstrong (Rowdy and the Rivets), Austin de Lone (Eggs Over Easy, Commander Cody), and other local musicians mostly from the Old Mill Tavern music scene.
The jug-jam sessions were about creating new tunes, new lyrics, or just new grooves with an acoustic, backwoods, jug sound. A harmonica, old arch top f-hole type guitars, a jaw harp, a washboard, a washtub bass and even coat-hangers banged on the edge of the old wooden kitchen table became the desired sounds of the group. To preserve the creative spontaneity, cover songs were generally forbidden and to maintain the funky, down-in-the-holler home-made instrument kind of sound, pianos, professional-sounding dread-naught sized guitars and any other instruments deemed "too-good-sounding" were discouraged. Carbon-date testing of left over Kentucky bourbon decanters from those sessions point to the year 1976.
In late 1977, Dan Hicks, host of the infamous "Monday Night Open Mike" sessions at the Old Mill Tavern, was needed for a recording gig in Los Angeles. His jug-headed cohorts, regular entrants to the Open Mike, covered for him and hosted the event on December 19, 1977. Billed as "The Three Wise Men +4 -1 Jug Band," this early cast of characters laid down their first holiday set of irreverent tunes. The owner of The Old Mill then suggested the band do a Christmas Eve gig. That show, which included Mr. Hicks, started the annual jug band performances.
Many original holiday numbers, parodies of unlikely classics, and raucous jugbandizations of seasonal favorites were added to the band's song list and in 1987 Globe Records released the band's first album, "Mistletoe Jam" (on green vinyl) and the group officially became "The Christmas Jug Band."
"Mistletoe Jam" was released on CD by Relix Records the following year and the tune "Somebody Stole My Santa Claus Suit" was selected as the lead-off track for the Rhino Records dark-side-of-season alternative compilation, "Bummed Out Christmas." With the momentum of that album (dubbed by some as "clearly the alternative Christmas record of the year" with "holiday songs sure to become dearly-beloved seasonal classics") demand for performances of Christmas Jug Band and their holiday "blues-busting" shows grew. A tradition was established and that momentary lapse of insanity is now a holiday mindset.
The Christmas Jug Band's latest release "UNCORKED" was engineered by FRED CATERO (Pointer Sisters, Santana, Barbra Streisand's "People," Sly & the Family Stone, Big Brother & The Holding Co.'s "Cheap Thrills") and ARJAN MCNAMARA, who know the idiosyncrasies of capturing acoustic eccentricities better than anyone and features the irreverent crew of DAN HICKS (Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks), AUSTIN DELONE (Nick Lowe, Elvis Costello), TIM ESCHLIMAN (Commander Cody, Etta James, Rhythmtown-Jive), PAUL ROGERS (Those Darn Accordions!), JIM ROTHERMEL (Jesse Colin Young, Van Morrison), ADAM GABRIEL (Hank Ballard & The Midnighters), LANCE DICKERSON (Commander Cody, David Bromberg), and BLAKE RICHARDSON (Bobby Hebb). Also featured on the CD are original jug band founding members, NICK DEWEY (Bodacious, Rowdy & the Rivets), GREG "DUKE" DEWEY (Mad River, Country Joe McDonald, Marty Balin), and PAUL WENNINGER (washtub virtuoso); and special guest appearances by NORTON BUFFALO (doing the Marx Brothers classic "I Want A Hippopotamus for Christmas"), Texas blues master ANGELA STREHLI, Bay Area favorite, MARIA MULDAUR (both featured on "Boogie Woogie Santa Claus"), and the powerhouse soul-gospel of MIKE DUKE (Wet Willy, Delbert McClinton), recapping the classic lawsuit-threatened Huey "Piano" Smith arrangement of "Silent Night." The talent roster is topped off with Dan Hick's vocal back-up quartet "THE FABULOUS OPINIONS" which consists of Eggs Over Easy's BRIEN HOPKINS, AUSTIN DELONE and JAY DAVID plus TIM ESCHILMAN.