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Washboard Charisma


Last Updated: 08/13/2013 3:33 pm

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DM: Some of you have a history of being in other jug bands, don’t you?

Wild Bill:
The three of us [gestures to Bowtie and Cousin Clyde] were original members of the Star Spangled Washboard Band.

The famous Star Spangled Washboard Band. It was 1971 when we started.

Mr. Eck: I’d like to point out that I was six.

Bowtie: We auditioned for a gig at Gaslight Village [in Lake George, New York] and decided to change our name from the Blue Jug Grass Band, to something more likely to win favor with Charlie Wood [the owner of the venue].

Cousin Clyde:
’Cause we had a washboard spangled with stars.

Wild Bill:
I do believe that we never called ourselves the Blue Jug Grass Band. It was a name under consideration. We thought perhaps it would not play to mainstream Lake George vacationers. So we sold out.

Bowtie: Of course. Whatever it took to play Gaslight Village. Six days a week, four gigs a day.

Wild Bill: We also got to play at the Tiki Lounge with Hurricane Hattie, and Frontier Town, with Wild Windy Bill McKay—Lake George legends.

DM: That wasn’t your only brush with history. Later, you were on the Mike Douglas television show. What happened there?

Wild Bill: Bowtie—this forever will be his moment in show-biz history—kissed Phyllis Diller on national television.

Bowtie: Yes, I did!

Wild Bill:
She was wearing a grass skirt and playing a ukulele, and doing the hula as we performed “Ukulele Lady.”

Bowtie: I was singing the song, and Wild Bill and Broadway [Blotto] are singing background, and I was singing “and lips were meant to kiss,” so I look over at Phyllis Diller and give her the showbiz “get ready,” and I go over and she comes in...dry kiss.

Mr. Eck: No tongue?

Bowtie: No. But it was beautiful.

DM: Where did it go from there?

Mr. Eck: To sitting in front of the Lark Tavern!

We’re not talking about the Jug Stompers.

DM: We are now. You’ve seemed to have developed quite a scene. The place is packed, folks come and jam, spontaneity happens. Are you surprised at the success?

Wild Bill: Wait a minute—we’re successful?

Bowtie: People are naturally attracted to a washboard; it’s a magnetic kind of thing.

Wild Bill: You could put magnets on it, kinda like a refrigerator.

Cousin Clyde: First of all, the Lark Tavern is an ideally suited place to perform—lights, an elevated stage.

Mr. Eck: Even more important than that, Tess has created an atmosphere here for things like this to happen, things that have a bit of funkiness to them, a little bit of vibe.

Bowtie: We’ve invited a lot of friends to come sit in, and tried to create an open forum.
Mr. Eck: This is our laboratory.

Bowtie: We’ve had a lot of people sit in with us—you included, Malachowski. Kevin McKrell, Jim Gaudet, Rick Bedrosian, Luke McNamee, Eddie Angel, Frank Jaklitsch, Half-Naked, Almost Awake, Jill Stevenson, Ed Atkeson,
Ryder Cooley, Sarah Pedinotti.

Wild Bill: Actually we have a full page on our website which we call the Medal of Valor. If you step onstage with us, you’re hardy enough for the Medal of Valor.

DM: Between your jamming and all, there seems to be a lot of generosity going on—where you are encouraging others—and interaction, which doesn’t happen as much as it should.

Bowtie: If I may speak.

Mr. Eck: If you may stop! (Laughs.)

Wild Bill: Biggest laugh of the night!

Bowtie (resuming): We like to help the younger folks come up.

Mr. Eck: They’re all younger than Bowtie.

Wild Bill: That includes everyone ...

Mr. Eck: ... even Pete Seeger.

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