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Rockabilly, Western Swing, jazz, blues, Tejano, Cajun, Czech — the big sounds of Texas are incredibly diverse. American Routes explores that vast terrain, visiting with Bandera, TX singer-songwriter Robert Earl Keen; Tejano accordion master Mingo Saldivar; and the King of Western Swing, Bob Wills, who is remembered by his fiddler Johnny Gimble, daughter Rosetta Wills, Bill Malone, Ray Price and Marle Haggard. Other musical Texans on tap include Illinois Jacquet, Townes van Zandt, and T-Bone Walker.


Musicians have been building on the past since the first notes were sounded; this week we’ll tune in to artists who’ve toyed with their roots to create something new. Jazz singer Cassandra Wilson tells us about returning to her home in Jackson, MS to record the blues and gospel-inflected CD Belly of the Sun. Bill Frisell positions his unique guitar style in a long line of ground-breaking musicians. Plus new sounds in country, jazz, blues, rock and more. Modern Roots, on American Routes.


Honoring the late Civil Rights leader with two hours of songs and stories in his spirit from inspiring leaders in music past and present. Harry Belafonte—a confidant of MLK— recalls his career in music and social activism, including the recently available “Anthology of African-American Music.” Plus tales of one of jazz’s great eccentrics — Sun Ra — remembered by band members Marshall Allen and Michael Ray, and biographer John Szwed.


On the 68th anniversary of his birthday, Elvis Presley is remembered. Exclusive interviews with bandmates DJ Fontana, Scotty Moore, producer Sam Phillips, and biographer Peter Guralnick focus on the social and cultural interactions unique to Memphis and the Deep South that sparked Elvis’ musical explosiveness. The songwriting team of Leiber & Stoller talk about working with Elvis on their compositions “Hound Dog” and “Jailhouse Rock,” and guitarist James Burton describes the Vegas years. Memphis R&B great Rufus Thomas describes the complex relationship many black musicians had to Elvis, and rockabilly queen Wanda Jackson says the king of rock ‘n’ roll was a perfect gentleman on their dates.


American Routes combats cold, dark winter days with music and stories to keep you warm. Virtuoso fiddler/violinist Mark O’Connor discusses his latest composition, American Seasons. Seamus Egan and Win Horan of the Irish-American band Solas take a musical journey from Philadelphia and Brooklyn to Ireland, and back. Plus Mae Nagark on Eskimo music from the Inupiat village near Barrow, Alaska.