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Cast Biographies

John Sebastian

John Sebastian

John Sebastian has been thrilling audiences for nearly 40 years. He was the founding member and lead singer and songwriter for the Lovin’ Spoonful and member of The Even Dozen Jug Band. Today John Sebastian is in-demand as a solo artist, studio musician, TV/film scorer and songwriter.

Bob Weir

Bob Weir was just 17 years old when he began playing with the Grateful Dead. He joined Jerry Garcia in 1964 and formed Mother McCrees Uptown Jug Champions, and was co-founder of the Warlocks which then became the Grateful Dead. He is currently a member of the band RatDog.

Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal, born Henry St. Claire Fredericks in New York’s Harlem on May 17, 1942, grew up in Springfield, Mass., in a home filled with music. His father was a jazz pianist, composer and arranger of Caribbean descent, and his mother, a schoolteacher from South Carolina, was an accomplished gospel singer. His parents encouraged their children to develop pride in and respect for their heritage, yet his first formal study of music came in the form of classical piano lessons. Two years of that convinced him that “I had my own concept of how I wanted to play.” He went on to learn clarinet, trombone and harmonica, and to sing. When an accomplished guitarist, Lynnwood Perry, moved next door, Taj Mahal borrowed his stepfather’s guitar and took inspiration from Perry’s mastery of a broad range of blues styles. Taj Mahal earned an associates degree in animal science in 1963 from the Stockbridge School of Agriculture at UMass Amherst. While at UMass he played with a popular party band, the Elektras and began assuming the identity of “Taj Mahal.” In 1964, he traveled to Los Angeles and became part of The Rising Sons, a group that opened for such acts as Otis Redding, The Temptations, and Martha and the Vandellas. He also met and played with such stellar bluesmen as Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters and Lightin’ Hopkins. Taj Mahal went on to produce three seminal albums in a row: Taj Mahal (1967) The Natch’l Blues (1968) and Giant Steps/De Old Folks at Home (1969). They were marked by the restlessly expanding eclecticism that he has exercised ever since, including forays into movie soundtracks, children’s recordings, and collaborations with a wide array of musicians from traditions the world over. Taj Mahal has earned nine Grammy Awards and has his own independent record label, Kandu Records. He was voted the official blues artist of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts earlier this year. On May 28th, 2006, Taj Mahal was awarded an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts Degree from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Geoff Muldaur

Geoff Muldaur

Geoff Muldaur is one of the great voices and musical forces to emerge from the folk, blues and folk-rock scenes in Cambridge, MA and Woodstock, NY. During the 1960’s and 1970’s Geoff made a series of highly influential recordings as a founding member of the Jim Kweskin Jug Band and the Paul Butterfield’s Better Days Group. Geoff has composed scores for film and television, becoming an Emmy winner along the way. Currently, Geoff is touring the world and thrilling audiences at home and abroad.

Bill Keith

Bill Keith is a master of bluegrass banjo and the inventor of the melodic picking technique widely referred to as “Keith Style.” He was a founding member of the Jim Kweskin Jug Band and has toured and recorded with a wide variety of bluegrass bands and artists. Bill has written several banjo tuition books, has recorded instructional tapes and owns and operates the Beacon Banjo Company in Woodstock, NY.

Jim Kweskin

Jim Kweskin

The Jim Kweskin Jug Band formed in 1963 and was together for five years. It was the first of the jug bands formed in the 1960’s folk revival and gained widespread popularity. Their musical influence can still be felt today. Jim Kweskin, the founding member, was first influenced by the folk group, The Hoppers. The Kweskin Band had a unique style of folk music and gained national attention through live performances and television appearances on the Roger Miller Show and the Al Hirt Show. After the band broke up, Jim Kweskin continued to perform as a soloist. Today, he performs and records with the Jim Kweskin Band.

Fritz Richmond: 1939-2005

Fritz Richmond: 1939-2005

Fritz Richmond was the champion of the jug and washtub bass. Fritz was a founding member of The Jim Kweskin Jug Band and it was with that band that he began playing the jug. After the Kweskin Band disbanded in 1968, Fritz moved to L.A. and continued his life as a musician and a recording engineer. He worked with Paul Rothchild at Elektra Studios. He engineered sessions for Jackson Browne, The Doors, Bonnie Raitt, Lonnie Mack, The Everly Brothers et al. As a musician during that time, he recorded with Ry Cooder, Brown, The Doors and many many more. Since the 1970’s he lived in Portland, Oregon with his wife, where he performed locally with his jug band, The Barbecue Orchestra. During this time he played with Bonnie Raitt, Bob Dylan, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, John Sebastian, Geoff Muldaur and others, with recent tours of Europe and Japan. He also was a guest several times on Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion, where he once astounded the audience with his jug performances. Fritz Richmond lost a year-long battle with lung cancer on November 20th, 2005.

Maria Muldaur

Singer Maria Muldaur was a member of the New York based Even Dozen Jug Band and later the Boston-based Jim Kweskin Jug Band. After the break-up of the Kweskin Band, Maria found solo success with her sultry single, “Midnight at the Oasis”, which was featured on her debut solo album Maria Muldaur in 1973. Since the 1980’s, Maria has successfully worked the club circuit while issuing records like 1994’s Meet Me at Midnight and 1996’s the Flames.

Del Goldfarb

Del Goldfarb started playing banjo at age 13. Soon, he switched to the guitar and got heavily into bluegrass, jug band, and folk. Over the years, Del Goldfarb has explored various musical collaborations, taught music classes, and created exhibits at the Memphis Blues Museum and the Memphis Music Hall of Fame. Del lives in Oregon, where he founded the Waterfront Blues Festival 1987 and still remains involved in fundraising today.

David Grisman

David Grisman is an acclaimed mandolin player. As a teenager, David met and studied with mandolinist/folklorist, Ralph Rinzler. He learned to play the mandolin in the style of Bill Monroe, the father of bluegrass music. David studied English at NYU and became immersed in the proliferating folk music scene in Greenwich Village in the early 1960’s.

Charlie Musselwhite

Charlie Musselwhite is one of the most celebrated blues artists of our time. The late Big Joe Williams once said, “Charlie Musselwhite is one of the greatest living harp players of country blues. He is right up there with Sonny Boy Williams.” The legendary Charlie Musselwhite is as blue as blues can get. In the past two years, Charlie received three W.C. Handy Awards, Contemporary Blues Album of the Year for his 2004 release Sanctuary, Contemporary Blues Artist of the Year, and Best Instrumentalist (Harmonica), bringing his total up to 18. After four decades in the business, Charlie Musselwhite continues to collaborate, record and perform. He remains at the top of his game.

Paul Rishell & Annie Raines

Paul Rishell & Annie Raines

Paul Rishell and Annie Raines have a loyal fan base that spans the globe. They continue to thrill audiences nationally and internationally at festivals, clubs, and concert halls, and playing and teaching at workshops. Their powerful ensemble playing style is based on close communication, listening keenly to the other players to support rather than overshadow them, and their duo work is marked by the sensitive interplay that has become so central to their performances. Their music has been featured on various TV soundtracks and radio shows including Americana, Folk, Triple A and Blues formats. They have performed on diverse radio and TV shows including A Prairie Home Companion, Late Night with Conan 0′Brien, and PBS’s Arthur. Paul and Annie have recorded with Susan Tedeschi, Pinetop Perkins and Rory Block, and continue to perform and record as members of John Sebastian’s J-Band.

Erik Darling

Erik Darling will be remembered for his trend-setting recordings and the 12-string guitar craze he created with his band the Rooftop Singers. He formed the band to record “Walk Right In.” The song hit number one in the nation. The band played major colleges and cities in the United States and Canada, toured New Zealand and Australia with Josh White, Judy Collins, Bud & Travis, and appeared at folk festivals, state fairs and on such television shows as the Tonight Show, Steve Allen, and American Bandstand. Erik Darling’s latest solo CD is “Child, Child,” which, he feels, represents the most complete composition he has ever recorded. In addition, Erik has been writing screenplays and completing an autobiography of his adventures in music, which began on the streets of New York and in Washington Square.

Sankofa Strings

Sankofa Strings

Sule Greg Wilson, Rhiannon Giddens and Dom Flemons makeup this trio of artists in love with self-made music. Armed with fiddles, and banjos, bones and drums, Sankofa Strings finds that “Old Time” sound, rejuvenates it, and makes it live again. Their repertoire explores the full breadth of the string and vocal traditions of the Americas, Africa and Europe: string band standards, classic and country blues, hokum and anonymous folk songs, Celtic ballads, West African melodies and more. “Sankofa” is an Akan (West African) concept of knowledge, spirit and history. Literally, it means to “Look back, and Retrieve.” It is a reminder that true progress does not abandon the past, but constantly draws upon the works and wisdom of those who came before.

Sam Charters

Sam Charters was a central figure in the folk-revival of the 1950’s and 1960’s. His passion was country blues. His fieldwork, extensive liner notes, production efforts and books served as an introduction to many who had never heard of artists like, Lightnin’ Hopkins and Robert Johnson. Throughout his prolific career, Sam Charters wrote inspiring books on the blues, collected music, rediscovered and promoted musicians like Sam Lightnin’ Hopkins and he joined David Van Ronk’s Ragtime Jug Stompers before starting his own band. Sam Charters was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame and continues to write extensively about the blues.

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