The BACK PORCH JUGBAND
John LaSala started playing guitar with his brothers at age 11. An early fan of folk, jug band, and Americana music, John played in a folk mass group in his teens, the folk/country group FEZO in late high school and early college, and was an occasional member of the Acoustic Eels in later years. He and his brothers ran the Golden Aardvark coffee house in high school days and the Detour Coffee House at Boston University. John played intermittently for a number of years until he met Bob and Jo Ann Shaffer who were looking to start a jug band jam on their porch. They asked that question you always ask when you meet someone new - “Do you have a washboard?” The answer was yes! And a musical journey began. The Back Porch Jugband formed as a direct result of those jam sessions. John, Gary, Gene, and Steve simply love to play and to share the fun and joy of jug band music with audiences wherever they can. They regularly play at farmers' markets, coffee houses, bars and are available for private parties.
GARY P. COHEN
A Lambertville resident, Gary has retired from Plays-in-the-Park in Edison, NJ where he served as Producing Director for 30 years. As a documentary filmmaker, Gary has helmed HALLOWEENVILLE and MAGIC ON MUSIC MOUNTAIN, both about Lambertville. He was the book writer for the off-B'way musical FRANKENSTEIN and director of the 80's shot-on-video cult classics Video VIOLENCE 1 & 2 and CAPTIVES, all now on BluRay. Using John Sebastian's music and based on his book, Gary created a children's musical JB'S HARMONICA, and was thrilled that John played harp on the soundtrack. He played guitar in his mis-spent youth, and is thrilled to have once again picked it up, along with the banjo and autoharp, to strum along with the BPJB, now in its 10th year.
As a young child Gene sang songs with his sisters and brothers while doing chores. Later, he sang in the church choir, then in the school chorus. But he began to study music when learning an instrument. He played French horn throughout college and began playing harmonica during that time. He gave up playing French horn for something easier, like a violin, which he found at a flea market. But he decided to stop playing classic band and orchestra music, because he just wanted to have fun playing.
People were surprised that he could play blues harp, but it got him into his first band. He has spent the last 25 years trying to make his fiddle playing listenable. But having reached his goal of having fun playing music, he is hoping that he can make it fun for you.
Steve Miller has been playing washboard since 1962. Back then he and some friends started a group while attending Council Rock High School in Newtown, Pa. It was during the great folk music revival in the United States. They started with run-of-the-mill standard folk tunes, but switched to became a jug band when they saw Jim Kweskin and the Jug Band perform at the second annual Philadelphia Folk Festival (PFF). They played for years as the Philadelphia Jug Band throughout the Delaware Valley and well beyond, returning to the PFF annually in an official or unofficial capacity. Steve studied piano as a kid and trained as a percussionist and singer in high school. In addition to handling vocals and playing the washboard he plays blues kazoo, jug, spoons and washtub bass. He appreciates his percussion lineage which was established by his grandmother who played drums in an all-female jazz band in the nineteen-teens. She also played piano. So did her son, Steve'e father, who as a college student played ritzy cocktail lounges in New York City in the 1930s. While Steve has the longest pedigree as a jug band musician, he is the most recent addition to the Back Porch Jugband. And are we glad to have him!