Return to Harvard Square to Celebrate
Eric Von Schmidt's
A.S.C.A.P. Lifetime Achievement Award
Intro and Photos by Chris Yeager (Read this while pictures are loading below...)
This was Sunday June 11, 2000, in the center of the known universe, Club Passim in Harvard Square. For those just catching up, Passim is the old Club 47, home venue of Joan Baez, Tom Rush, Richard Farina, the Kweskin band, and of course that first ever white urban blues kid, Eric Von Schmidt. Most of these singers learned on songs that Eric collected, transcribed and brought to light. Eric is also an accomplished painter and has a lifetime of album covers to his credit, most recently for Paul Geremia and Chris Smither. Eric is in his 60s and recovering from various ailments, including cancer of the esophagus, which cost him his voice. This has slowed him down somewhat, but only somewhat.
Eric received the A.S.C.A.P. Lifetime Achievement Award for Folk Music in 2000. I couldn't tell you who won in previous years, frankly I had no idea the award existed at all, but who's asking questions when all the surviving members of the Jim Kweskin Jug Band are in the house and unpacking instruments together for the first time in 30 years. A little back story for the puzzled- The Jim Kweskin Jug Band was an east coast phenomenon- a band dedicated to rocking out a very genuine ragtime stomp down party music and educating your ass in musicology at the same time. (Kind of a Squirrel Nut Zippers- with a little more karmic reach..) They were all heavy heads, each capable of fronting their own bands, or finding their own paths, which they pretty much went on to do after '69 or '70.
Maria Muldaur has the most high-profile career, her then husband Geoff Muldaur joined up with Paul Butterfield, and is now re-emerging solo. Washtub-bassist Fritz Richmond joined Electra records as an engineer on many sessions, most notably the Doors, and Kweskin, though he stayed in Boss-town to look after family matters, still plays out semi-annually with a new generation of Memphis Minnie-Ma Rainey devotees. This is the core group that showed up at Passim.
Also there and singing were Tom Rush, (who is still killer by the way) and neo blues stylist Chris Smither. The invite-only crowd was filled out by a comfy mix of friends, family, current wives, ex-husbands and ex-wives, ex-ex husbands and ex-ex wives and several full-or-half brothers and sisters; in 30 years god knows you can put down a lot of history. (My lord, is that sharp, natty boomer-dude over there Mark Spoelstra?)
Well, the pictures should have loaded by now, hope they convey the visual if not the audible. As a final note I'd like to say that everyone, and I mean everyone who played has only improved over the years .
You should check out Eric and Jim Rooney's book Baby Let Me Follow You Down (Amazon link), it's the family album, it's all in there .
Top- Betsy Siggins, Peter Wolf, Maria Muldaur, Dick Waterman, (2nd row) Bob Jones, Kweskin's hat, Fritz Richmond, Tom Rush, Bill Keith, Eric center with direct descendants....
|The miracle itself...Fritz, Geoff, Kweskin, Maria, after 30 very odd years.|
|Jug Band Music...So sweet to me|
|Eric and one of his angels... .|
|Fritz Richmond and Geoff Muldaur take in the Kweskin solo set.|
|Eric speaks: "I sang My love comes rolling down.... it still does..."|
|And then, there's the check....!|
|The back wall: Fritz Richmond in a flash-resistant jacket, Al Kooper keeps the Dylan wild-hair-and-Wayfarers thing alive, Kweskin ponders the meaning of it all....|
|Tom Rush- Joshua Gone Barbados - still sultry after all these years...|
|Jim Rooney to Eric- "I was a nice young guy when I met you..."|
|Rules of the Road: Fritz, Geoff, with daughters Clare, Jenny, and ex Maria....|
|Geoff, Clare and Jenny|
|Maria reintroduces a skeptical Kweskin to the kazoo concept...|
|Maria- dem speakers gonna walk across de flo'...|
|Goodbyes in the alley|
|By nightfall, it's business as usual at Passim..|