Megan Chacamaty (Burleson) - vocals, kazoo, slide whistle; Michael DeTemple - vocals, guitar, banjo; Denny Hall - guitar, washtub bass; Tom Martin - jug, washtub bass, washboard, clarinet; Bob Page - banjo, dobro; Joel Tepp - clarinet, harmonica
The Ash Grove will long be remembered as the West Coast epicenter of the traditional folk and blues revival of the late 1950s and early 1960s. As such, the Los Angeles venue was a critical component not only in the careers of many important folk and blues artists, but as an educational environment to many younger musicians and songwriters, providing them with firsthand exposure to the best of the best in an intimate setting. Also a focal point for progressive thought, the Ash Grove would have an equally strong impact on the cultural and political perspective of these young emerging artists, laying the groundwork for what would become the rock music revolution of the 1960s.
It was into this environment that the Lydia E. Pinkham Superior Orchestra brought their wild and wacky musical antics during the Summer of Love. This recording captures the group in fine form, full of youthful enthusiasm, delivering a wide range of material, despite their limited stage time. For the uninitiated, The Lydia E. Pinkham Superior Orchestra was actually a North Western jug band, their name embracing absurdity, like so many of the San Francisco bands at the time. According to the stage banter on this very recording, the real Lydia E. Pinkham was a woman from Massachusetts known for concocting alcohol-fueled elixirs in the 1870s.
In many ways, the Lydia E. Pinkham Superior Orchestra paralleled their counterparts in the North East, the Jim Kweskin Jug Band. Both groups mined similar material and contained talented musicians and singers who would gain greater recognition during the following decade. Both groups also contained young but devoted archivists of early 20th century music and both groups relayed a strong sense of humor. However, they also differed significantly. The Kweskin Band was several years older and a bit more reverent in their approach, staying relatively traditional to the end. The Lydia E. Pinkham Superior Orchestra were more youthful, incorporating modern songs as well as jazz standards into their wide-ranging repertoire. Unlike the Kweskin band, the Lydia E. Pinkham Superior Orchestra emphasized songs that were equally suitable for dancing as they were for listening. The California counterculture was fully blooming at this moment in time and that too is reflected in the group's performance.
Written by Alan Bershaw