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Jugged Edge: So many politically incorrect jokes to be made, so many standards to be upheld.


Now one of Santa Cruz's longest-running bands, the Dirty Butter Jug Band is still churning it out

By Mike Connor

"Mr. Tim" Greenwood ain't your average washboard-playin', jug-band singin', gumbo-cooking, record-collecting musicologist. As the co-founder of a band that's been gigging around town for the past 30 years, he's pretty much a Santa Cruz institution. And a jolly one at that.

"We figure that if we stay around long enough, we're gonna have to be at least recognized by the Library of Congress for our achievements and stuff," quips Mr. Tim, who doesn't brag about his band's accomplishments so much as he simply states the facts: "We've been a band for 32 years and performing in Santa Cruz for 30 years--we're the only band that's played the old Catalyst and the new Catalyst in town. We're the longest playing band in Santa Cruz."

Guess that old-time music never really goes out of style. Because there's something about this music--and something about this band in particular-- that always brings out the smiles. Sure, it's fun to watch old-school dudes getting' jiggy with the jugs, washboards, spoons and kazoos. And it's tons of fun to watch the Butterettes--the band's young chanteuses--fire up the stage with vintage vocal stylings and sexy vintage dresses to match. But most of all it's the music--the pared-down jug band jigs, the washboard barrelhouse romps that drag out the hootin' and hollerin' hillbilly in even the sourest of pusses.

Mr. Tim explains that jug band music was originally a clever move on the part of ambitious musicians who flat-out lacked the funds to get themselves expensive instruments.

"When I saw this, I thought it was a great concept and I respected the integrity of the original players--the Louisville Jug Stompers, Jed Davenport, the Memphis Jug Band, Gus Cannon," he says, "who had to go forth and create all this music with hardly anything, with stuff they pulled out of the kitchen. The gutbucket took the place of the stand-up bass, the washboard took the place of the drum, and then the jug took the place of the tuba, which played the bass lines. And of course there was the cowbell they stole off the cow. And they would orchestrate all this stuff into music."

From the Ozarks to SC

Deep in the Ozarks of Arkansas back in '68, Mr. Tim happened upon an old-time music festival that featured jug band music. When he returned to his home in New Jersey, he and harmonica/jug/kazoo player Bob Young decided to start their own jug band, drafting high school classmate Rita Black. The three decided to head out to California, where the musical climate was better suited to their old-timey aspirations.

They landed in San Jose and recruited "an unmanageable dozen or so" musicians from local colleges, aptly calling themselves The Never-Ending Jug Band. They soon changed their name to Dirty Butter, gigging around S.J. and Sunnyvale until '73, when Young moved up to Boulder Creek and stumbled upon the now-infamous Club Zayante.

"We started playing there in about '73, all the way until it closed," says Mr. Tim. "That's where we met Clifton Chenier, Gatemouth Brown, Queen Ida, the Neville Brothers, Professor Longhair, Sunnyland Slim, they all used to come up and play at this place."

Thanks to the connections made at Zayante, DBJB would later travel out to New Orleans to soak up the culinary culture and play a gig with Chenier. The way Mr. Tim tells it while relaxing comfortably in his antique-festooned house by the beach (the Dirty Butter family affectionately refer to it as "the Bar & Grill," due to frequent parties and cookouts), DBJB has played pretty much anywhere and everywhere.

"I don't think there's ever been a place where people didn't really like the [jug band] music," he says. "We opened for the Doobie Brothers and Elvin Bishop--these guys were rock bands and they were really loud. But we just played as hard as we could, with enough conviction that even the people that were there to hear the rock acts liked it."

The Dirty Butter Jug Band performs Saturday, July 5, at the Brookdale Lodge, 11570 Hwy 9, Brookdale. Tickets are $6 at the door; 831.338.6433.

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From the July 2-9, 2003 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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