The eight sides recorded by the Birmingham Jug Band in December of 1930 represent the entire recorded output by one of the era's earthiest, most raucous -- and most obscure -- jug bands. The membership of the group has never been verified, though many blues scholars place the semi-legendary harmonica player Jaybird Coleman at the helm alongside Ben Curry, a medicine-show entertainer also known as "Bogus Blind" Ben Covington ("bogus" because he wasn't really blind). Big Joe Williams claimed to have played with the group and identified the following lineup: Coleman, Covington, "One-Armed Dave" (Dave Miles), "Dr. Scott," a jug blower named "Honeycup," and a washboard player called "New Orleans Slide." The group likely performed in medicine shows across the Deep South, and their recorded repertoire provides some insight into the musical styles featured in such shows.
Of all the jug bands of the '20s and '30s, the Birmingham band had one of the most distinctive sounds on record, though their repertoire was significantly less diverse than that of groups like the Memphis Jug Band or Cannon's Jug Stompers. Probably the only full jug band from south of Memphis to record, the group had a more rural sound than its contemporaries, reflecting the aesthetics of the country string band as much as the popular jug band. The group's eight recordings are characterized by a prominent lead mandolin and equally prominent harmonica; gruff, heavy vocals; and a throbbing rhythm enforced largely by the insistently pounding jug. Also recording in the same Atlanta studio that day was King David's Jug Band, another little-documented group; together, these two outfits produced some of the liveliest and most intriguing records from the height of the jug band era. ~ Burgin Mathews