Fritz Richmond was the undisputed all-time king and world champion of the jug and the washtub bass; nowhere better demonstrated than by the Smithsonian Institution's inclusion of Fritz's instruments in its collection.
Fritz was born John B. Richmond, Jr. in Newton, Massachusetts on July 10th, 1939. He attended local schools in Newton and graduated from Newton High School as a member of the class of '58.
Fritz's interest in homemade instruments started in late-1958 or early-1959 when, with friends John "Buz" Marten and John Nagy he went to Sears Roebuck to purchase his first washtub. Using a broom handle and a piece of rope, Fritz was almost immediately able to play... and play well. The boys formed a folk group called The Hoppers (named because there were three Johns!), and performed in the local Boston-area coffee houses.
Fritz continued to play the washtub through his term of duty in the US Army (1959-61), during which he served as a helicopter mechanic in Germany and Korea. Of note, and certain interest to afficionados, is the likelihood that, to this very day, Fritz is the only member of the US Army to have ever "played" a Quonset hut.
During his early days as part of the Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts folk music scene, Fritz provided his solid bass lines for Eric Von Schmidt, Geoff Muldaur, Tom Rush, The Charles River Valley Boys and many others. Fritz was a founding member of The Jim Kweskin Jug Band (1963) and it was with that band that Fritz began playing the jug. His unique talent was given nationwide attention on US tours and national television with the Kweskin Band (Steve Allen Show, Johnny Carson, Mike Douglas, Roger Miller, Pat Boone et al.).
After the Kweskin Jug Band disbanded in 1968, Fritz moved to Los Angeles. He continued his life as a musician in LA, but he primarily worked as a recording engineer with producer Paul Rothchild at Elektra Studios. He engineered sessions for The Doors, Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, Lonnie Mack, The Everly Brothers et al. As a musician during that period, he recorded with Ry Cooder, Brown, The Doors and many more.
Since the late 1970s, Fritz lived in Portland, Oregon with his wife, Cynda Herbold. He worked as a legal assistant at the law firm Markowitz, Herbold, Glade and Mehlhaf and performed locally with his jug band, The Barbecue Orchestra. He played during this time with Bonnie Raitt, Bob Dylan, Ramblin' Jack Elliot, John Sebastian, Geoff Muldaur and others, with recent tours of Europe and Japan. He also performed several times on Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion, where he once astounded the audience with his jug performances, with The Turtle Isle String Quartet, of The Flight of the Bumblebee and Eine Kleine Nachtmusik.
Fritz Richmond lost a year-long battle with lung cancer on November
by From; Geoff Muldaur