The musical and cultural meanderings of the Mississippi River, from exploration and trade to romance. Jazz, ragtime, and levee work-songs along with blues, rockabilly, gospel and country. Guests include the late Memphis soul man Rufus Thomas, and ethnomusicologist David Evans speaking about influential Delta guitarist Charley Patton. Also, we visit a river barge pilot as he rolls on the river.
The guitarist-singer Jimmie Rodgers has been called “The Father of Country Music,” “America’s Blue Yodeler,” and “The Singing Brakeman.” Born in Meridian, MS, in 1897, Rodgers recorded briefly between 1927 and 1933, but defined country music as “the white man’s blues” with a related legacy of crooning, jazz, Hawaiian guitar, and eclectic vaudeville-style entertainment. On the 70th anniversary of his death, American Routes looks at the life and legacy of Jimmie Rodgers. We’ll speak with biographer Nolan Porterfield, and hear comments from country singer Merle Haggard and bluesman John Jackson, among others. Also, music about Rodgers’ favorite subject—trains—in many styles… blues, country, soul, roots, rock and more.
This week we look how music is enshrined at three spots around the country. In Memphis, the Stax Records Museum is opening this spring and we’ll hear stories from artists on the label like Isaac Hayes, the Bar-Kays, the Memphis Horns, and Rufus Thomas. Then we’ll head west and visit the massive Experience Music Project in the heart of downtown Seattle with it’s high-tech focus on rock and roll. Finally, Peggy Bulger of the Library of Congress’s American Folklife Center tells us about their Save the Sounds project — preserving 50 of the most important recordings ever made. American Routes, where old sounds endure and new ones appear.
This week we focus on some of the great women in music. The 83-year old jazz diva Anita O’Day talks about her rebound from years of drug abuse, and rockabilly shouter Wanda Jackson recounts her 50 years in the male-dominated music business. We’ll also pay a visit to soul queen Betty Wright, and listen to many other female voices that have helped shape the American musical soundscape.