Cigar boxes, trash cans and washboards may be nothing but
junkyard fodder for most people, but for the
Tarantulas Jug Band, these are
the makings of great music. The genre had its heyday in the late 1920s, but it is still
alive and well in the Bay Area: The 3rd annual
San Francisco Jug
Band Festival will be held August 15–17, 2008. The 6th
International Jug Band Festival will take place September 27–28 in
Sutter Creek. These sights and sounds may be familiar to some SLAC
employees who recall several jug bands that have played, and formed, at
The community of SLAC employees, with its wide variety of
interests and talents, brought together a previous jug band, way
back in 1981. SLAC employees Bebo White, Alan Spragens and Bruce
Erickson were introduced through friends who recognized their common
love of this down-home style of music. Together they formed The
Grinnin' Dawgs Jug Band. The group made jug band fans out of many
SLAC employees when they played at a few SLAC functions, including
Family Day 1981. Many years later, another band of White's called
the Loose Licks played at Family Day 1994. These days, White is
associated with the Tarantulas, a nine-member band that made its
most recent SLAC appearance in 2006, at the International Conference on Web
Engineering (ICWE) dinner. The photographs here show the Grinnin Dawgs and the Tarantulas, both playing outside the Panofsky
Auditorium breezeway, 25 years apart.
Jug band music is a hard genre to nail down. Linked with the
early development of American blues, it diverged by adding home-made
instruments like washtubs, combs and of course, the jug. Any variety
of glass, earthenware or stoneware jug adds unique flavor to more
traditional stringed instruments. The
California Jug Band
Association quotes genre pioneer Geoff Muldaur as saying, "The
essence of the jug band idea is people jamming music for free and
for fun with an extremely unrehearsed, spontaneous nature to it."
Many people consider Chicago blues to have its roots in jug band
music, and a few jug bands of the 1960s evolved into classic-rock
groups, including The Grateful Dead.
SLAC Today, August 6, 2008
The Grinnin Dawgs: (left to right) Alan Spragens, Bebo White, Peder Jones on the jug and Bruce Erickson play at SLAC in 1981. Photo courtesy of Bebo White.
(Click images for larger versions.)
Tarantulas: Bebo White holds the microphone with the Tarantulas jug band at SLAC in
2006. Photo Courtesy of Maria Bielikova.