The Christmas Jug Band Story - A
momentary lapse of sanity that became an annual holiday tradition spanning over 35 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
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. In 2005 TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX licensed the "Twas The Night Before Christmas"
from this album
for music in their "White Lie Christmas" Episode.
The Christmas Jug Band's 2009 release "ON THE HOLIDAY HIGHWAY" features special guests: Country Joe McDonald, Norton Buffalo,
Mike Duke and Dan Hicks' Lickettes. Recorded live across 7 shows at 4 locations in Northern California, between 2006 and 2008:
The Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse, Berkeley, CA; Paradise Performing Arts Center, Paradise, CA;
Masonic Hall, Mill Valley, CA;
Sweetwater Station, Larkspur, CA ..Just under 73 minutes of sheer live CJB insanity! The foremost purveyors of Seasonal
Skiffle-Swing and Jugabilly-Infused Revelry. A tongue-in-cheek, festive convergence of San Francisco Bay Area
luminaries: AUSTIN DELONE (Nick Lowe, Elvis Costello), TIM
ESCHLIMAN (Commander Cody, Etta James, Rhythmtown-Jive), PAUL ROGERS (Those Darn Accordions), DAN HICKS,
(Jesse Colin Young, Van Morrison), BLAKE RICHARDSON, GREGORY "DUKE" DEWEY,
TURTLE VANDERMARR, KEN "SNAKEBITE" JACOBS, ANTONI LECH WYERZYNSKI,
ANTHONY PAULE, & BOWEN BROWN.
The Christmas Jug Band 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), 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.
In 2004 SONY/BMG licensed the "Santa's Workshop"
from this album
as part of the Restoration Hardware complation CD, "Country Christmas." In 2007 Germany's
oldest independent label, TRIKONT,
licensed the song, "That's His Red Wagon", from the CJB release
"RHYTHM ON THE ROOF" as part of their "Wish You... Best Christmas Eve" compilation CD release.
In 2009 the PUTUMAYO record label released
"A Family Christmas"
which features "Boogie Woogie Santa Claus" from
this Uncorked CD.
brings the news that PHILTER of Japan has licensed "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" from the "MISTLETOE JAM" album
for their "Jukebox Christmas" release.