Roanoke Jug Band

Formed primarily by employees of the American Viscoe Company plant in Vinton, Virginia, the Roanoke Jug Band was a string band that played throughout south-central Virginia. The group never used a jug among their many instruments; it was included in their name for novelty effect. The Roanoke jug band vied for top honors in fiddle contests, performed at local schoolhouses for dances, and broadcast over Roanoke radio station WDBJ. It was through their radio work that the Roanoke Jug band received the opportunity to record for Okeh Records in 1929. Other station performers, among them its house pianist, Herndon Slicer, were also invited to Richmond to audition. The Roanoke Jug Band did well and each of its four sides was issued by Okeh.

The band continued to play well into the Great Depression. Marriages and the pressure of family forced most of its members to drop out of music, though they continue to live in or near Roanoke. Clyde Dooley died of a heart attack about 1938. Billy Altizer continued to lead another string band that played over WDBJ until his death in 1939. Banjo player Walter Keith also died of a heart attack about 1947. In July of 1984 Ray Barger passed away. Mahlon Overstreet and Richard Mitchell continue to live in Roanoke. 


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