The Prejudice Against Jug Band Music

Jug band music began as street-corner busking, where performers soon learned that the novelty of blowing on a ceramic jug, kazoo or harmonica grew larger crowds than the more sophisticated picking on banjos, mandolins and acoustic guitars by their more dignified blues colleagues.

But even within the African-American music community of the Jim Crow South, jazz musicians looked down on the blues musicians who looked down on the jug-band buskers.

As often happens, the folks at the bottom of the totem pole played with more spirit and freedom than those at the top. The same need to draw a crowd encouraged not only novelty instruments but also ear-grabbing tunes and theatrical lyrics. You can hear that free spirit in the Memphis Jug Band’s 1928 On the Road Again, featuring the guitar and lead vocal of Will Shade.

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