Still No Jug: The Original South Austin Jug Band Returns

It's a one-off for now, but cross your fingers

A picture of the original SAJB from the 1800s
A picture of the original SAJB from the 1800s

Some 11 years ago, the South Austin Jug Band first appeared on the local scene. That's when the head scratching began. First off, there wasn’t even a jug.

They were an attempt at bluegrass, but in typical Austin fashion they mixed in rootsy originals with tunes by Walter Hyatt, Bob Wills, Jimi Hendrix, and Townes Van Zandt. Their following grew quickly.

Sunday night at Threadgill’s World Headquarters, the original SAJB – James Hyland, Willie Pipkin, Warren Hood, Matt Slusher, and Will Dupuy – reunite for what will likely be a highlight of the summer.

“We’re definitely better players,” Pipkin points out. “We still can’t play bluegrass for shit, but at rehearsals it’s been pretty funny to hear the difference in seasoned players.”

Hyland agrees, laughing.

“At our early gigs we were still learning our instruments,” he explains. “We really didn’t know what were doing. We had an idea what we wanted to do and we sure tried to achieve it, but we weren’t quite there as musicians. We’ve had three practices to date and it sounds great. Everybody’s much better at their instruments.”

This iteration of the band (there were several more over the years) won the bluegrass competition at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in 2001 and released an eponymous effort in 2004. As often happens when five guys get together for any length of time, there were disagreements and personnel changes, leading to different projects.

Today, Hyland fronts his own group, the Joint Chiefs. Pipkin plays the blues as often as possible with Little Elmore Reed and occasionally backs Toni Price. Warren Hood has a myriad of bands; most recently he’s become a member of the Bodeans. Dupuy formed his own combo and is a bass player in demand for folks like Bruce Robison. Slusher’s most recent project is Wood & Wire, one of the more interesting new bluegrass acts in Central Texas.

“Anytime anybody left it wasn’t under perfect circumstances,” acknowledges Hyland. “But we’re brothers. We lived in the same house. We traveled around the world together. We lived in a car together. We grew up together and we definitely fought together.

“We’re all bound by this music from a special time in our lives.”

Their idea of reigniting that “magical camaraderie,” as Hyland puts it, should be something to hear. Whether it extends past Sunday night is up in the air right now.

“As of today it’s one-time only,” Hyland admits. “Personally I hope there’s much more of these to come. I love these songs. I know everybody’s busy with other projects, but we’re smart guys and we’re open to offers.

“If anybody’s throwing a good party and everybody’s got the weekend off, I don’t know why the Jug Band couldn’t make an appearance.”

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South Austin Jug Band, James Hyland, Willie Pipkin, Warren Hood, Matt Slusher, Will Dupuy, Walter Hyatt, Bob Wills, Jimi Hendrix, Townes Van Zandt, Telluride Bluegrass Festival, Bodeans, Joint Chiefs, Toni Price, Little Elmore Reed, Bruce Robison, Threadgill's

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