It’s summertime, and the living is easy on American Routes, where we’ve got cool tunes from Miles Davis, Ray Charles, Martha and the Vandellas, and the Beach Boys to help you beat that summer heat. We’ll hear memories of Sea Breeze, NC, a historically Black resort community that was an early site of integration in the Jim Crow South… And visit with some surfers at Mission Beach, San Diego.
During the Cold War, the U.S. State Department started sending jazz musicians overseas with the tactical aim of using their hot licks to thaw relations with Eastern Bloc countries. Jazz great Dave Brubeck recalls how Louis Armstrong, a.k.a. “Ambassador Satch,” won international hearts and minds with his trumpet. Band member Arvell Shaw saw Armstrong literally disarm Russian guards in East Berlin.
The American folk music revival that grew from the Post-WWII era to the Sixties was about more than just music: it wrapped in political activism, romantic visions of the self and the “folk,” group “sing-a-longs,” “hootenannies” and careers of singer-songwriters. We interview folk heroine Judy Collins about her move from traditional British folk songs to the new songs and sounds in Greenwich Village. Jug bandleader Jim Kweskin talks about his love of communal living.
This holiday weekend American Routes boogies down to bayou country to catch live music at Festival International, a showcase of French music from southwest Louisiana and the wider Francophone world along with blues, Chicano nouveau and swamp pop. For the 31st annual festival, we hear female Cajun supergroup Bonsoir Catin tear up the stage; bluesman Corey Harris ring out the Mississippi Delta's West African roots; and blue-eyed soul from swamp pop legends Johnnie Allan, T.K. Hulin, and G.G.
We follow Billie Holiday from her beginnings through a complex life of troubles and musical triumphs, her compelling "autumn" voice and untimely passing at age 44. Biographers John Szwed and Robert O'Meally discuss Lady Day's style and significance, while Cassandra Wilson describes and sings her approach to the Billie Holiday oeuvre. Singer Catherine Russell describes reaching back to recreate classic blues and jazz. From our archives we hear Nina Simone and Bonnie Raitt praising their blues heroines in story and song.
This week on American Routes, we're celebrating the life and music of Troy “Trombone Shorty”Andrews. Schooled in the sounds of his family and New Orleans’ Tremé neighborhood, Shorty has been a musician since the age of four.
We take a deep dive into the memory vaults to spin the tunes that we shamelessly love. From guilty pleasures, including a disco dance number, to confessional ballads like James Carr’s “Dark End of the Street” and songs of redemption ala Bobby Hebb’s “Sunny,” we shine a light on our heart’s true delights. Plus, we explore social protest anthems including Mavis Staples' "Long Walk to D.C.," Simon & Garfunkle's "Richard Cory," and a standout R & B version of Pete Seeger's "If I Had a Hammer" sung by Shreveport's Toussaint McCall.
We’ll remember the late singer-songwriter Jesse Winchester, through his music and his own words. Then a visit to Rugby, VA for a close listen into sustainable guitars and ukuleles, made by Jayne and Wayne Henderson, of Henderson Guitars.
American Routes celebrates Memorial Day weekend with a sonic feast from National Endowment for the Arts’ Heritage Fellows--recipients of America's most prestigious award in folk & traditional arts. We'll hear music and conversation from past Fellows: bluegrass picker Del McCoury, rockabilly Wanda Jackson, sacred steel guitarists, the Campbell Brothers, and late blues singer Koko Taylor. The 2016 Fellows included: Mardi Gras Indian Chief Monk Boudreaux, Irish accordionist Billy McComiskey and Mexican-American singer Artemio Posadas.
In this special program, American Routes' host Nick Spitzer uncovers the music and cultural traditions of Los Angeles: from Hollywood to neighborhood. Join Nick as he travels across the City of Angels to hear from L.A. legends -- including Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys and songwriter Randy Newman -- and explores musical cultures with Cambodian-born rapper PraCh Ly in Long Beach, Louisiana Creole zydeco accordionist T-Lou in South Central, and East L.A.'s Ersi Arvizu.