Jazz may have been born here, but by the 1950s the music of choice in New Orleans was rhythm & blues. Local talent topped the charts with songs like “Lawdy Miss Clawdy”, “The Fat Man” and “Working in the Coalmine”. We’ll talk to many key figures in New Orleans R&B, from hitmakers like Lloyd Price, Dr. John, and Aaron Neville and producers Allen Toussaint and Harold Battiste, to bandleader Dave Bartholomew and musicians like drummer Earl Palmer. Plus music recorded in New Orleans’ legendary J&M Studios by Little Richard, Fats Domino and Professor Longhair, and funk, jazz, pop and soul along the way.
Take a two-hour trip to Music City, U.S.A. as we hit the high-class and the low-class joints. Nashville has been a hub of playing and recording country music for over 50 years while also generating a steady stream of regional R&B hits. Come backstage at the Grand Ole Opry and meet the people who make it work, from ushers and announcers to long-time cast members Porter Wagoner, Marty Stuart and others. Pop into the venerable Gruhn’s Guitars, grab a bite at the Pancake Pantry, and pay respects at country music’s finest final resting place, Spring Hill Cemetery.
It’s the time of the season when we gather together to celebrate the harvest… and maybe reflect on the work we’ve done—all in words and music. It’s also getting cold, and it’s a good time to be indoors by the radio to hear autumnal sounds and colors in music. Our guests include bluegrass traditionalist Del McCoury, who speaks about his days on the farm and logging the forests of Pennsylvania, as well as his bluesy “high lonesome” sound. Popular singer-songwriter Natalie Merchant reflects on the role of music in the seasons of her life and tells about her recording “The House Carpenter’s Daughter”. Plus sounds and wiffs of the “angels’ share” from the barrel room of the Old Forrester Distillery in Louisville, Kentucky. We’ll post the scratch and sniff soon.
American Routes offers a sequel to our popular “Words and Music” show, paying special attention to great lyricists and story songs, as well as figures who’ve blurred the lines between literature and music. One of those is Steve Earle. When he wasn’t busy stirring up the alt-country world with newsworthy albums like Jerusalem, Earle spent time in Ireland writing short stories and haikus. We’ll also speak with African-American songwriter, poet and radio host Oscar Brown Jr., and hear the potent and playful words of Mose Allison, Johnny Cash, Billie Holiday, and the story behind that most-American phrase “Doo Wah Diddy.”