At the south end of University Avenue in Palo Alto, California, there
is a circular street named, aptly enough, The Circle. Located at about the
four o'clock position on The Circle, as you head toward Stanford University,
there was a beer and pizza hangout called The Tangent. The Tangent
is gone now, but upstairs there was a large, low-ceilinged room with a small
stage. Known as "Top of the Tangent," it was the center of the
Palo Alto folk music scene during the early '60s.
Ragtime and jug band music were two popular styles that flourished consecutively from the 1890's to about 1930. It's happy, good time music, and a revival of these styles was an important part of the folk music boom in the early sixties. The most successful of the sixties jug bands, The Jim Kweskin Jug Band, breathed new life into old classics, and added a good dose of playfulness, as well.
Jerry, Bob and Pigpen jumped on the jug bandwagon, however briefly, for their first collaboration before reforming, electrically, as The Warlocks. In fact, six of the tunes in this set:
are lifted directly from the first Kweskin album, entitled "Jim
Kweskin and the Jug band" (Vanguard, VSD-2158). The Kweskin band also
performed a version of My Gal on this album, but Pigpen definitely
makes this song his own.
With the exception of Jerry's kazoo and Pigpen's frequent, and very good harp breaks, there is little solo instrumentation here. The strength of these performances comes mainly from the energy of a bunch of new friends having a great time goofing around together.
There's the Boo Break, in which Jerry encourages the audience to "boo" the band in order to release any "unenjoyment" that they may have built up. After the audience lets loose, Jerry says, "I heard a few good hisses in there." Another exchange, just before Borneo, goes like this:
Bob: Wait a minute, wait a minute.
Jerry: (mocking) "Waaait a minute, waaait a minute."
B: Gimme a G.
J: A G, man? This is in B flat!
B: Gimme a B flat, gimme a B flat
J: C'mon. You aren't foolin' me, ... pretty boy.
There are also a couple of entertaining moments (Overseas Stomp and Beat It on Down the Line) when the band completely loses the beat, and then wobbles back together again.
Although each of these songs existed as separate pieces on the tapes we found, Jeffrey Norman has done a wonderful job of weaving the pieces together to give the impression of a continuous live performance. Only two songs, Boodle Am Shake and Shake That Thing break the continuity because they fade in rather than start from the beginning. But that's the way they are on the original tapes.