American musician Jim Kweskin is known most notably as the founder of the Jim Kweskin Jug Band, he is an interpreter of songs and ‘Unjugged’ spotlights his ability to get to the centre of a lyric – even one written 80 years ago – and to extract its meaning and make it relevant to a new generation. While his influence on American music in the 60s is great (if little known) and his jug band continues to be an inspiration for modern folk musicians, it’s Jim’s way with a song that is his greatest legacy. So take it away Jim, unjugged……
As the folk renaissance of 1950s America impacted on popular music in the 1960s, jug bands became an important part of the transition. Key rock groups of the 60s and 70s began life as or were influenced by jug bands: The Grateful Dead, John Sebastian and the Lovin’ Spoonful, Country Joe & the Fish, The 13th Floor Elevators all took on the anarchic DIY freshness of the Jug, Jook or Spasm band.
One of the first and most influential jug bands was formed by Jim Kweskin, from Boston. Jim recreated and modernised songs from the ’20s and ’30s and Jim Kweskin and the Jug Band, featuring Maria and Geoff Muldaur, were on the brink of a real breakthrough before they disbanded in 1968*. Author and journalist Ed Ward put it this way: “The most important bands of the early 60s? Glad you asked: The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Byrds, and The Jim Kweskin Jug Band. I’m perfectly serious.”