On their website, the Ramblin’ Jug Stompers describe their playlist as “78 rpm music for the 21st Century,” and Paul Jossman thinks that’s just about right.
“We draw from more American roots music, and a lot of the stuff that we do came out on 78s,” said Jossman, who grew up in Detroit and Virginia and has called the Capital Region home for nearly 40 years. “Our music has that kind of sensibility. We do jug band songs, country blues and old folk songs.”
Jossman, who plays the banjo as well as an assortment of other string instruments, will join his fellow Ramblin’ Jug Stompers on Sunday night at the NBT Bank in Saratoga Springs as part of Saratoga First Night 2018. The group, which also includes Michael Eck, Greg Haymes and Steven Clyde, has become a regular First Night performer in Saratoga Springs. If you’ve seen them play before around the holidays, you won’t be surprised when Jossman stops the music to read an original poem he wrote just for the occasion.
“We’ve been playing up there for a while now. We like to have a lot of fun when we play, and there are a few things I do that have become tradition,” Jossman explained. “One of them is that I compose a poem every year about something that happened. I did one when they banned the 100-watt incandescent light bulb, I did one when Yogi Berra died and another when the Twinkie went away. I gotta good one this year, but I can’t tell you what it’s about.”
Jossman also goes by Bowtie Blotto or just Bowtie, the name coming from his days back in the 1980s as a member of Blotto, one of the Capital Region’s best locally produced bands ever. Haymes was also a Blotto member, while Eck and Clyde are also longtime favorites for local fans of roots music over the last 30 years.
“The people in our band come from different places,” said Jossman. “Clyde’s more of a Beatles guy, Michael started out as a punk rocker and Wild Bill [Haymes] was in a rock band. I started with folk music and blues, so there are different influences that each one of us bring to the band, but we also all overlap quite a bit. I think the thing we all evolved toward was being a low-tech, acoustic string band.”
Along with his music ability, Jossman can “ham it up” with the best of them. Back in the 1980s, when Blotto was enjoying some wide-spread success, Jossman had the opportunity to kiss legendary comedian Phyllis Diller on national television.
“We played ‘The Mike Douglas Show’ twice, and one time it was with Phyllis Diller and we did this song called ‘Ukele Lady,” remembered Jossman. “I’m singing the song and she’s standing next to me with a grass skirt on swaying back and forth. There’s a line in there, ‘One day I’m going where breezes are blowing, and lips are meant to be kissed.’ Between lines I said to her, ‘Get ready,’ and we gave each other a nice little peck.”
Jossman isn’t the only performer Sunday night with some experience on the national stage. Fultonville’s Sawyer Fredericks, winner of 2015’s “The Voice,” will be performing as part of Saratoga First Night 2018 on the WEXT Stage in City Center.
“I’ve seen him a couple of times, and I really respect what he does,” Jossman said of Fredericks. “He stands there, he plays his music and he’s true to himself. There are things you can do if you’re trying to be famous, but he doesn’t seem worried about that and doesn’t change. He seems unbelievably mature for his age, and I think he’s really got something going for himself.”