An Incomplete History of

The Star Spangled Washboard Band

Below is an excerpt from an interview with Bowtie Blotto (formerly Bowtie Johnson), conducted by Lili.

 

 

Q: When and how was The Star Spangled Washboard Band formed?

A: The Star Spangled Washboard Band (SSWB) got started in 1971 as an acoustic quartet. The band members met in a coffee house in Troy and, through a series of events, found themselves living and performing together in a mime troop (!) in Chestertown, NY. We got a job at Gaslight Village for the summer and got the act together.

Q: Was the mime troop simultaneous to The SSWB or before?

A: The other three guys in the SSWB were already committed to performing in the mime troop (Essence Mime Theatre) for the summer. In order to get the band going, they asked me to join the mime troop. Thus we did both mime gigs and SSWB gigs that summer. We continued to do both into the fall but the band started picking up steam and combined with "artistic differences" with the mime troop director, members of the band left the mime troop one by one until we were just doing SSWB.

Q: You mentioned that there were three other guys. That would be...?

A: The original SSWB formed in 1971 and consisted of Sarge, me, Don Dworkin (currently of Doc Scanlon's Rhythm Boys and Reggie's Red Hot Foot Warmers), and Steven Davies (aka Klyde, Steven Klyde, currently playing bass with Commander Cody). These 4 were in the mime troop as well. The summer of '71 we played Gaslight Village and did mime shows too. Klyde left in 1972 and was replaced by Broadway (who was never in the mime troop but had done a lot of theater anyway). By that time we had all officially left the mime troop.

Q: Was the Gaslight Village the first place The SSWB performed?

A: We played a few gigs (~5?) before that - just enough to let us have a credible audition. We tightened up the act at Gaslight Village as we did 4 shows a day, 6-7 days a week, for 8 weeks.

Q: Was 1971 the only year that The SSWB played at the Gaslight Village?

A: Yes.

Q: How did The SSWB get its name?

A: Sarge played the washboard and it had stars and stripes on it. However, there was more purpose than that. We chose that name specifically to help get the job at Gaslight Village - it sounded like a good, clean All-American name.

Q: What made the band want to do humorous vs. serious themes in music?

A: It was not a decision. We just followed the natural direction of our personalities and what we were good at.

Q: When did The Star Spangled Washboard Band break up? Why?

A: The SSWB had a long run in the 70's. We evolved from an acoustic jug band to an electric, psychedelic bluegrass band. I guess we just ran out of new ideas and figured we had taken it as far as it would go.