“At the peak of the American folk revival, Jim Kweskin & the Jug Band reintroduced an essential component into folk music: fun.” – Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr., AllMusic.com
“The rock historian Ed Ward went so far as to place the Kweskin Band alongside the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and the Byrds as that period’s most influential groups.” – Alex Ward, The New York Times
“When it came to jug band music, razzmatazz jazz, and swinging spins on Piedmont blues back in the ’60s, Jim Kweskin was top dog. Jim Kweskin’s famed Jug Band hot-wired an entire movement that still has a certain impact on the folk scene today.” – Jim Macnie, The Providence Phoenix
Jim Kweskin is probably best known as a singer and bandleader for The Jim Kweskin Jug Band. The original “Americana” band, playing everything from classic blues to hillbilly country, ragtime, jazz, and rock ‘n’ roll, they perfectly captured the legendary 1960s mix of exuberant anarchy and heartfelt sincerity. Their imitators were legion, including a San Francisco jug band that became the Grateful Dead and a New York jug band that became the Lovin’ Spoonful, but no other group attained their unique blend of youthful energy and antiquarian expertise, tight musicianship, loose camaraderie, and infectious swing.
The looseness was partly an illusion – they assiduously sought out long-forgotten records, worked out innovative arrangements, practiced hard, and maintained a high standard of technical skill – but when they played it always felt like play rather than work. They revived the jug band style of the 1920s and made it sound fresher than ever.
Where other folk-blues revivalists were nostalgic, the Kweskin gang were revolutionary hipsters. “We were a family, and we were dedicated to presenting a life experience and pioneering experiences for people,” says Geoff Muldaur. “We were trying to get that kid in the fourth row to finally pick up a guitar or take a trip – or just get down.”
Jim Kweskin also created one of the bedrock guitar styles of the folk revival, adapting the ragtime-blues fingerpicking of artists like Blind Boy Fuller to the more complex chords of pop and jazz. He has maintained a remarkably consistent musical vision since his jug band days, continuing to explore traditional folk and blues with the sophisticated sensibility of a jazz musician and jazz with the communal simplicity of a folk artist. He has recorded solo ventures, as a member of the U and I band, and with U and I bandmate Samoa Wilson, and continues to perform widely in various formats. In recent years he and Geoff Muldaur have often appeared as a duo, revisiting and expanding on their Jug Band repertoire.