Day three of my ‘Fill your pockets and run like F@#k tour’ – I’d been looking forward to this Thursday night for over 6 weeks;
‘The New Hawleans Jug band’.
It’s a name well known in the more swampy tributaries of the Thames Delta.
Think ‘Deliverence’ and duelling banjo’s. Scampering crawdaddies. A levee about to break. Robert Johnson on his way down to the crossroads.
The ‘Thames Delta’, is the nickname given to the river that gave rise to some rather special music, starting down at the seaside with Dr Feelgood in Canvey Island, while further upstream there is Eel Pie Island where Long John Bawdry, The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd and everybody in between played. Also from Twickenham came The Strawbs (The Strawberry Hillbillies as they were) while in nearby Richmond – The Stones had their first gigs at The Railway Tavern as did many others in that era.
Even further upstream and it gets more rocky – ‘Maximum Rhythym and Blues’ at Slough and Langley (a story in itself) also Soul there too, Sham 69 (the stories I could tell) at Hersham and Walton, The Members (The Sound of the Suburbs), and best of all – The Jam and Paul Weller from Woking.
‘New Haw’ (no sniggering at the back, please) is a small Surrey village/suburb that nobody much visits, I certainly haven’t. It has however given its name to;
“A rollicking collection of meandering musicians, The New Hawleans Jug band have been delighting their army of loyal fans around Surrey for over 10 years. Led by the irrepressible and irresponsible "Al the Hat"; with their rocked-up, jazzed-up and messed-about versions of blues, folk and country standards, as well as some fine originals, no one genre could accommodate them, so they had to create their own. They are perhaps the finest "Jugabilly" band you're ever likely to hear.
I can only say Yee Haw!
Some of New Haw's most creative musicians have joined Al's group, with the line-up consisting of:
Alex on guitar and vocals
Jim-boy on lead guitar and vocals,
Al the Hat on Blues Harp and vocals
Ewan the new'n on doghouse bass
Precious Pierre on mandolin, guitar and vocals
Washboard-Steve, on Steve's mum's Washboard.
Just like in the 1960’s when Japanese soldiers kept being discovered on remote islands, unaware that the war was over – it looks like these exiles from Memphis, Tennessee have somehow got overlooked in, errh, Surrey.
Here’s a selection of the hits of the 1930’s and 1940’s I was entertained with at the Staines Riverside club;
La La Blues
The Man of Constant Sorrow
Whiskey in my Whiskey
Garbage man Blues
I think you’ve probably got the idea by now – there were ‘train songs’, gospel songs (sung by a bunch of atheists like me), long lost gurrlfriend songs, sad lonesome sort of songs, and what was rightly introduced as a ‘Country Death Song’ (I poured some Whiskey in my Whiskey and put three shells in my ‘44 )
And ending with the fine old hit ‘Plastic Jesus’, where the chorus goes;
‘Plastic Jesus, Plastic Jesus,
On the dashboard of my car.
Plastic Jesus, Plastic Jesus
Assures me I won’t go to hell’.
You’d have to hear it to get the joke – I’d be surprised if they didn’t have a few spots on You-Tube.
They played in front of the logo of Sun Records of Memphis, Tennessee and to be fair they did them proud.
Jim-boy’s guitar work stood out, with a right real twang to it, there were quitars and mandolins (even a small ration of the ever toxic banjo) while Alex had a thump-box (a Tennessee drum as he called it) with a couple of tambourines taped to it to compliment washboard Steve’s (who looked like a runaway building society manager) washboard and cowbell. Good vocals Steve.
Al the Hat and Washboard Steve - livin' on the edge.
Someone behind me pointed out Al the hat’s uncanny resemblance to Freddie Kreuger – well he had the largest array of harmonica’s I’ve ever seen and came out blasting so I’m not saying anything. Except perhaps - where was the jug?
It's not my kind of music but then this was the music Elvis grew up listening to and probably thought was just a bit too tame for him, and in turn Elvis was what a young John Lennon was into, and so it's come on down to us.
Day three ended with a good night too.
Now Friday night – what’s that coming?
( a don’t stop till you drop production)