The Courier-Journal


The inspiration for journalist Michael L. Jones’ new book “Louisville Jug Music” dates back over 20 years to an early 1990s browsing session at the Underground Sounds music store in the Highlands.

A self-proclaimed “musical nerd,” Jones came across an imported record called “Clifford Hayes & the Jug Bands of Louisville,” released by an Austrian company, and discovered that the sleeve notes were written by Brenda Bogert, who lived near of Jones in the Highlands at the time.

Although Jones, who now lives with his family across from Iroquois Park, was raised by his grandparents in a house full of jazz and blues, “what excited me the most was that this is an aspect of the blues that I had never heard of before. , he writes in the book.

This record-breaking discovery set off a chain of “coincidences”, as he describes it, which led to the publication last October of his book – “Louisville Jug Music: From Earl McDonald to the National Jubilee”.

The first copies were also available in time for the National Jug Band’s 10th Jubilee last September at the Waterfront, which Jones has helped organize as a member of the Jubilee Board of Directors since 2008.

Jones said he came to regard jug band music as “the first true American sound”, combining African rhythms with European melodies as part of a long tradition of string orchestra dating back to the 19th century. .

With whiskey-type jugs that were played like a blown instrument, the bands and their music created the roots of blues, jazz, ragtime, bluegrass and country music, he says.

From now on, his detailed 127-page book, illustrated with historical black-and-white photos and more, will be recognized with the Louisville Historical League’s “Samuel W. Thomas Book Award” at its annual awards meeting at 14 hours March 15 at the Southwest Regional Library, 9725 Dixie Hwy. Jones will have copies of his book available for $ 20.

The other winners are: Founders Award, Kadie Engstrom for his efforts with the Kentuckiana Heritage Consortium and the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Belle of Louisville; Lee Squires, for 41 years of “dedicated” stewardship of Cave Hill Cemetery; Family Health Canters for the renovation of the historic standard health building at East Broadway and Campbell Street; The company Solid Light for its excellence in the creation of historical exhibitions; National Association of Watch and Clock Collector, Kentucky Bluegrass Chapter 35 for the restoration of the E. Howard clock in the former Union Station building, now TARC headquarters on West Broadway; Book “Heroes at the Falls: Louisville’s Lifesavers” by Leland Johnson and Chuck Parrish

Photos in the book include those from the past jubilees of Louisville photographer Brian Bohannon and one of the Ballard Chefs, a popular band sponsored by Ballard & Ballard Flour Co., who also appeared on a WHAS radio show. Jones also has a photo of the “chefs” on his living room wall.

Jones, who suffers from kidney disease and is awaiting a kidney transplant, has written for Louisville Magazine, Louisville Eccentric Observer, the Jeffersonville Evening News and the Louisville Defender and currently writes sketches on artists for the Louisville Visual Art Association. He studied at the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville as well as Northwestern University in Chicago on a Magazine Editorial Fellowship.

Once Jones became familiar with jug band music, he wrote a story for Louisville Magazine in 1998 about the Louisville Juggernaut Jug Band, which began in the 1970s and still performs today.

In 2000 he wrote a story for Louisville Eccentric Observer (LEO) titled “That Crazy Jug Band Sound,” which in turn was published in Jones’ previous book, “Second-Hand Stories: Fifteen Portraits of Louisville, about 2006 ”. He has also written an article at U of L on the subject.

LEO’s story was inspired by stories about Louisville jug band music that Todd Brashear, owner of Wild & Woolly, found in an English magazine called Storyville. These stories were based on an unpublished manuscript by Fred Cox, an Indianapolis lawyer who researched jug bands in the 1960s and 1970s with others, Jones says in his book.

He then met Rod Wenz, a former public relations manager and journalist and founder of the Jug Band Jubilee in 2005. Wenz was already researching a book on jug band music and suggested that Jones would be the best for it. ‘write, in part because it might help attract more African Americans to the jubilee, Jones says.

Wenz died in 2008, and Juggernaut frontman Steve Drury said he would help, Jones recalls. But he passed away in 2009 and, “It left me the last man standing,” Jones wrote.

Jones continued on his own. His book is about McDonald’s, who is buried in Louisville Cemetery on Poplar Level Road. Born in South Carolina in 1885, he became “one of the most famous jug players in Louisville history,” having founded the Louisville Jug Band in 1902, writes Jones.

He adds that Louisville is considered the birthplace of jug music because members of the Louisville Jug Band – along with singer and vaudeville artist Sara Martin of Louisville – became the first jug band to be recorded in the studio in September 1924.

Clifford Hayes, whom Jones had discovered via the Austrian record, was a violinist born in Glasgow, Ky. In 1893 who joined the Louisville Jug Band in 1914. Supporters raised funds for an illustrated gravestone for Martin at Louisville Cemetery .

Two years ago, the History Press in Charleston, SC, contacted him to see if he would like to do a full-fledged book, and this led to the completion of his writing and research efforts, did he declare.

Jones considers his African-American heritage to give him a valuable perspective and has said that one of the goals of his book is to dispel misconceptions about jug band music. The most common image of a jug group is a hillbilly group playing in a square dance, and the music is considered mountain music – associated with the Appalachians, he says.

But the tradition came from Africa – where gourds were used to disguise voices in a way that set a precedent – with slaves, and the first jug groups were in fact African Americans, he said.

Jug bands were also associated with minstrel performances, and the music was often associated with “racist eras,” Jones said at his home, which is replete with many books on music. But before the main jug band era of the Depression ended, it helped spawn a lot of music that people enjoy today, Jones said.

“Louisville played a big part in that,” he said.

Journalist Martha Elson can be reached at (502) 582-7061 and [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @MarthaElson_cj.

“Louisville Jug Band Music”

Lousiville Jug Music: From Earl McDonald to the National Jubilee “, by Michael L. Jones, can be ordered at and Amazon or by calling 502-408-6713. It is also sold in Carmichael, Craft Gallery stores on South Fourth Street, and Barnes & Noble.

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