Hiltons, VA -- From the pastoral hills, hollers, shopping malls, and interstate highways of Goodlettsville, Tennessee - home of Bill Monroe, Bashful Brother Oswald, Stringbean, Grandpa Jones, Keith Whitely - and some living country music performers - comes themost entertaining blast from the past since Lester Moran and the Cadillac Cowboys. They’re the Tennessee Mafia Jug Band – five guys and a scrubboard with roots like wisdom teeth. Saturday, December 29th, 2012, at 7:30 p.m. the Carter Family Fold in Hiltons, Virginia, will present a concert by the Tennessee Mafia Jug Band, an old time band. Admission to the concert is $10 for adults, $1 for children 6 to 11, under age 6 free.
The Tennessee Mafia Jug Band has shamelessly stolen a feature of the old Roy Acuff Show -- a bit known as "Pap & the Jug Band". This frolicking fivesome brightens up the stage with rib-tickling old time tunes. Even better, they have an utter lack of self-consciousness (and some might say any sense of decorum). The Tennessee Mafia Jug Band not only knows the music, they wear the costumes, tell corny jokes, and even do slapstick gags that throw a cable-tv-numbed audience into hysterics. Grown women have lost control of internal organs when the Jug Band entertains ... tears a’ runnin’ down both legs!!
"Lonesome" Lester Armistead is a shy and retiring retired printer now raising grandchildren on his farm in middle Tennessee. He rarely speaks above a whisper until he uncorks his jug, gets a whiff of greasepaint and footlights, and releases his Force Five tenor voice in song. Lester and his late brother Jack performed extensively in Davidson County as a country duet years ago. They grew up around Roy Acuff's Smoky Mt. Boys, as their dad co-owned a bait store with Acuff's fiddler Howdy Forrester. Lester learned to sing from Bashful Brother Oswald - on this all music scholars agree. When Lester sings, Oswald lives. Lester blows a jug that Os played on the Opry as long ago as 1939. Lester also picks a mean banjo. Mostly, Lester likes to laugh.
As Roy Rogers was to the Sons of the Pioneers, so Leroy Troy - "the Tennessee Slicker" is to the Tennessee Mafia Jug Band. Leroy has "star power", having performed his astounding old time banjo act since the 1980s at the Knoxville World’s Fair, in the cast of "Hee Haw", on many recordings, on the high seas, at concerts and festivals all over the U.S., Canada, the British Isles, and in Branson, Missouri. Now a regular on Marty Stuart’s show on RFD TV, he's a past Champion and Grand Marshal from Uncle Dave Macon Days in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Leroy gives all credit to old time Opry stars the Bailes Brothers, who taught him show business. Leroy sings the lead on old tunes like Charmin’ Betsy, and besides banjo he also plays an elaborately outfitted scrubboard, after the fashion of long-ago Opry star Robert Lunn who played it in Acuff’s show. Leroy has the Three T's -- tone, taste and timing. His grin and eyes are hypnotic - he really connects with an audience.
The tall, handsome young man providing most of the actual music with his fiddle is sophisticated (he was born in Pennsylvania) Dan Kelly. Even if you can't recognize a fiddle (or real music) you can tell Dan by his snazzy clothes - Liberty size 40-Suave overalls. As a mere stripling youth, Dan won hundreds of fiddle contests and was a six-state champion -- he even won the Canadian National Open Championship at age 12 -- which may say a lot about the quality of Canada’s fiddlers. In 1983 Dan took home the big prize when he won the coveted Grand Masters Fiddle championship in Nashville. After fiddler Big Howdy Forrester’s passing, Roy Acuff hired young Dan to be the Smoky Mt. Boys' fiddler, and Dan worked with the King of Country Music until his death in 1992. Dan can really play those beautiful and tricky Howdy Forrester pieces! Since Acuff’s passing, Dan has fiddled his way through a number of top country bands including those of Pam Tillis, Steve Wariner, James Bonamy, Faith Hill, Alan Jackson, Jessica Simpson, and SheDaisy. Poor guy can’t hold a job. Dan hopes to finally break into the "big time" with the Jug Band.
In the rhythm section with the bass fiddle, you’ll often find Ernie Sykes. Ern was born and half-raised on Long Island in New York, and he loved it so much there that he moved to the south as soon as he learned to read a map and compass in Cub Scouts. Ernie is another musician who can’t hold a real job. He’s played with his family band, the Bluegrass Cardinals, the Lonesome River Band, Irish band the Aisles of Langerhanz, and notably was the final bass player in Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys. Ernie sings a good country song, and he also sings bad country songs. Ernie learned a mean “butter paddle buck and wing” from the late Chick Stripling.
If the Jug Band can be said to have a brain, that would be guitar man Mike Armistead, Lester's son and heir. Mike shares lead singing duties with Leroy, sings harmony in the trios, books the band, runs the mercantile empire of their recordings, hoss trades in knives, dogs, and guitars, and is the Jug Band’s tenuous contact with the twenty-first century. Like his dad, Mike has a taste for strong tenor singing and also loves the repertoire of Bashful Brother Oswald and Ira Louvin. He runs his own record label out of a spider hole at the far end of Dickerson Road in Goodlettsville, Tennessee. Mike is the wheeler-dealer of the outfit. He’s a graduate of the very first International Bluegrass Music Association Leadership School. He also serves the citizenry of Nashville with the Fire Department.
Mike Webb is the extraordinarily handsome young lout who plays the dobro and has also been spotted with the old time banjo and even a rhythm guitar. When but a mere lad, Mike was the awe-struck student of Bashful Brother Oswald himself. Os taught Mike all his best material - from acoustic steel guitar to his clawhammer banjo style. Mike became an authentic Grand Ole Opry performer as the last dobro picker with the late Wilma Lee Cooper and the Clinch Mountain Clan. He also performed with Charlie Collins.
The Tennessee Mafia Jug Band has a CD "Barnyard Frolic", had a video on CMT and GAC cable TV, and their latest CD is “Poor Leroy’s Almanack”. They can be heard on the sound track of Faye Dunaway’s movie "Yellowbird". The Jug Band provided the entertainment for the society wedding of Billy Bob Thornton and Angelina Jolie several years ago -- you see how well that turned out. They played a New Year’s Eve show at the historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville and nearly brought the house down. They perform concerts all over the south, for bluegrass festivals as far away as Indiana, New England, and Canada. Tours of Europe and the far east are in the works. The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. (our nation’s capitol) has hosted the Jug Band. They’ve been on the Grand Ole Opry stage over a dozen times, and in spite of their wild antics they get invited back!
Hot picking, powerful harmony singing, and riotous hijinks - that’s the Tennessee Mafia Jug Band. Marty Stuart first introduced them to the Fold, and it was a match made in Heaven. Get ready to laugh until your sides hurt. Be sure to bring your dancing shoes, too – you’ll need them! For more information on the Tennessee Mafia Jug Band, go to www.tennesseemafiajugband.com/.
Carter Family Memorial Music Center, Incorporated, is a nonprofit, rural arts organization established to preserve traditional, acoustic, mountain music. For further information on the center, go to http://www.carterfamilyfold.org. Shows from the Carter Family Fold can be accessed on the internet at http://www.carterfoldshow.com.
Carter Music Center is part of the Crooked Road: Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail. You can visit the Crooked Road Music Trail site at http://thecrookedroad.org. Partial funding for programs at the center is provided by the Virginia Commission for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts. For more information on Saturday’s concert, contact the Mountain Music Museum at 276-645-0035. For recorded information on shows coming up at the Fold, call 276-386-6054.Hee Haw