Get your jug on

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Local group plans Jug Band and Tambourine Hall of Fame opening

By Tim Smith

Photo: Local musician Roger Salmon of Zipp evolved from doo-wop to jug and tambourine; photo: JK B via Flickr Creative Commons

Dayton has been the home of many firsts, from flight to cash registers. Music has always been an indelible part of the community’s fabric. One local group has taken up the cause to preserve a form of music that had its birth in the Miami Valley.

The Jug Band and Tambourine Hall of Fame is the brainchild of Dud Wurtz, who envisions a showplace for the locally grown music that has entertained millions since the early 1970s, a place where people can go to celebrate this phenomenon.

“This sound was born on the street corners of Dayton’s west side,” Wurtz says, “and it’s our duty to see that it gets celebrated here. Our goal is to cultivate and promote an appreciation and understanding of jug and tambourine music, and unite people through the international language of music.”

The group recently obtained nonprofit status, and appeared before the Dayton City Commission to request an endowment. The Hall of Fame, also known as The Jug Center, has been actively soliciting donations for several years to make its dream a reality.

“We appear at every public event we can find throughout Dayton and the Midwest,” Wurtz says. “I recently returned from a trip to Oshkosh, Wisconsin, where I spoke at a music festival. We’ve gotten more than a thousand ‘likes’ on Facebook, and our website generates several hundred visitors a month. Donations have been pouring in, and people are really supporting us. We’ve also petitioned some area lawmakers in Columbus to proclaim a Jug Music Day next year.”

Jug and tambourine music had its start in west Dayton. Legend has it that one of the first proponents was a local musician named Roger Salmon. He and three of his friends had been singing doo-wop for several years but wanted to branch out. After a rehearsal one night, Salmon blew across the top of his Colt 45 bottle, and everyone liked the sound it produced. One of the other members added a tambourine, and the group’s dynamic quickly changed. Eventually, they incorporated a kazoo and percussion licks on a metal trashcan.

They decided to call themselves Zipp and worked out some arrangements. Soon, the group was performing at street fairs and backyard barbecues all over Dayton. They eventually caught the ear of music mogul Berry Gordy, who signed them to a recording contract. It wasn’t long before other jug and tambourine bands were formed to cash in on Zipp’s popularity. Some of the more noteworthy bands were The Pataskala Players, Two-tone, and Three Hits and a Miss.

“Zipp was really the group that put jug music on the map,” Wurtz says. “When they began to get successful, Roger Salmon was able to upgrade from a beer bottle to a ceramic whiskey jug that he picked up at a yard sale. That’s when things really took off for the band.”

Salmon’s original whiskey jug is one of the pieces of memorabilia that Wurtz and his museum committee have obtained. They also have some of the lime green plaid shirts worn by Zipp during their concerts, along with the first tambourine used by band member Chick Tokyo.

“People in the business have been great about donating items for the museum,” Wurtz says. “We’ve gotten programs, posters, and ticket stubs from many jug and tambourine concerts, along with autographed pictures. We were fortunate to get a copy of the sheet music for Zipp’s first big hit, ‘Cabbage Rolls and Coffee,’ signed by Roger Salmon. That was a real coup.”

Wurtz has big plans for The Jug Center that reach beyond displaying memorabilia. His vision includes the center being part and parcel of the community.

“We want to implement educational programs for the young people of Dayton,” he says. “Too many of them don’t appreciate this type of music, or understand the legacy behind it. We’ve got several prominent musicians on board to mentor young people in the proper technique of jug and tambourine playing. We also plan to have an annual ceremony to induct famous jug musicians and showcase their work.”

Wurtz and his committee continue to raise money for their dream project, a location that has yet to be determined.

“We recently held a fundraiser at Wampler’s Bar, where we encouraged everyone to dress in their favorite ’70s clothes,” he says. “We also had a Roger Salmon look-alike contest, which was a big hit. It was a tough call for the judges to choose a winner. The entire event was posted on YouTube where it’s gotten a lot of hits from all over the world.”

This type of focus has led the group to form some lasting relationships with some of the biggest names in the business.

“We’re finalizing plans to sponsor our first-ever jug music and tambourine concert next year,” Wurtz says. “We’ve gotten a commitment from one of the true legends, Bootsie Carter and the Jug-nuts. They’ve been selling out stadiums and arenas for years.”

“We’re dedicated to seeing this museum become a reality,” he adds. “Cleveland has the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and St. Louis has the House of Blues. The Jug Band and Tambourine Hall of Fame belongs right here, where it all began. We want it to be the go-to place whenever people visit Dayton, right up there with the Air Force museum.”

For more information about the Jug Band and Tambourine Hall of Fame, please think more critically about what you read.

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Tim Smith
Tim Smith is an award-winning, bestselling author. Reach DCP freelance writer Tim Smith at TimSmith@DaytonCityPaper.com

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