Below is a brief history of the Famous Jug Band. A lot more information about the band, in particular Clive Palmer's involvement, can be read in Graham Hood’s biography about Clive, 'Empty Pocket Blues'. The early years of both Pete and Jill are covered in Rupert's White's excellent book 'Queen in Cornwall'. Rupert's book 'Folk in Cornwall' is also highly recommended.
All the original four members had been around the music scene for many years. Clive was a founding member of the Incredible String Band, playing on the 1st ISB LP. Henry Bartlett ran folk clubs in London as well as playing with The Levee Breakers.
The two local artists were Pete and Jill.
Pete had come from a rock background, playing for several years with Shaun and The Shondells who relocated to London, put out a single on Parlophone (as Page Five) and played around the London club scene. He became more interested in folk/blues, inspired by Davey Graham, and in 1966 toured with Israeli folk group Haverim after the demise of The Shondells.
Pete would return to his native Newquay around 1967 and it was here he met up with Henry Bartlett and Mick Bennett while busking around Newquay and visiting the Folk Cottage in Mitchell. In 1967 the trio formed the Great Western Jug Band, with John the Fish contributing guitar. They were a regular fixture at the Folk Cottage and also backed up Ralph McTell on his first two LP's.
After leaving the Incredible String Band Clive had spent some time travelling, but after returning to the UK made the decision to locate to Cornwall around 1968. At this time Mick had taken up his own travels, making the journey to Morocco, so the Great Western Jug Band were minus a player. Clive, Pete and Henry got together and started to rehearse a new band.
One evening the band was doing a floor spot at the Wadebridge Folk Club when they spotted Jill Johnson, who was at the club performing with her group The Jayfolk. Jill was asked to join the new group.
After performing a few shows in Cornwall they set off on tour in early 1968, even managing to secure a performance on the Radio One Club show. Wizz Jones was a regular fixture in the Cornish music scene and knew them all well, when in London he suggested they contact Pierre Tubbs. Pierre had just recorded Wizz's debut, as well as Roy Harper's Folkjokeopus. Pierre was impressed, signing them up to Liberty and setting them up in Tony Pike's recording studio in Putney, where they would
A single was picked from the LP to be released in advance on the long-player. "The Only Friend I Own/A Leaf Must Fall" received some airplay and a review on Radio One from Eric Clapton. Despite favourable reviews the single was not a hit the optimistically titles "Sunshine Possibilities" LP came out in July 1969. Again it had positive press and some airplay but was not a hit.
Before the LP even hit the shops there was tension simmering in the band. The stand out track on the LP was Clive's "A Leaf Must Fall", beautifully sung by Jill, yet the music the band were producing wasn't really Clive's style of music. There was also some conflicts around some of Henry's choices in gig bookings.
Clive was asked to leave the band and the remaining three continued without him. Wizz was asked to join, which he did for a very short period of time. He would appear on a BBC session, but may not have played any gigs with the band.
Clive returned to Cornwall, forming the Stockroom Five with John Bidwell and Tim Wellard. This would become The Temple Creatures and later C.O.B.
By June 1970 the second LP, "Chameleon" was released. This new LP saw Pete come more to the forefront as main songwriter, showing a more acoustic band. By now they were doing well playing the thriving university circuit and locally had residencies at the Folk Cottage, Railway Hotel and Room at the Top. They also had some sponsorship from the Cornish Mead Company who gave out samples with the FJB logo on their bottles!
After the release of the 2nd LP they added Welsh guitarist John James to the line-up and set about recording demos for a 3rd LP. The LP didn't materialise, and the demos are now sadly lost. By April 1971 they decided to call it a day, partly due to Jill Johnson returning to Cornwall to recover from sickness related to stress.
Van Dyke Club, Plymouth
Thanks to FolkinCornwall & Graham Hicks