American Routes explores the music associated with outlaws and life behind bars, from “Ball and Chain” to “Jailhouse Rock,” from Johnny Cash’s San Quentin show to Leadbelly’s “Midnight Special,” with guests include Merle Haggard and Aaron Neville. Plus a visit to the “Wildest Show in the South”—the Angola, Louisiana Prison Rodeo.
This week we toe, walk and cross the blurry line between country and blues, as performed by both black and white artists. Guests include white blues harmonica player Charley Musselwhite, who tells us about his lifetime journey from Mississippi to Memphis to Chicago to California; and Charley Pride talks about his upbringing in Sledge, Mississippi, his baseball career, and being an African-American country singer with 29 number one hits to his name. Plus bluesy-country and country blues from Hank Williams, Howlin’ Wolf, Aretha Franklin and more.
Jazz, klezmer and funk clarinetist Don Byron talks about the classical elements in his album “A Fine Line: Arias and Lieder”. You’ll also hear a profile of Raymond Scott, one of the great, unknown composers and inventors of the 20th century. Scott set the template for the music in Looney Tunes cartoons, and went on to develop some of the first electronic instruments.
This American Routes focuses on Jewish, Arab-American, Middle Eastern and Islamic influences on African-American music and culture. Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller talk about how “two young Jewish guys” from the east coast wrote some of our most memorable songs, like “Hound Dog,” “Yakety Yak,” and “I’m a Woman.” Plus: music portraying Old Testament tales in gospel and reggae; Middle Eastern images in jazz and pop; and the impact of Islam on the blues. Also, Atlantic Records founder and Turkish ambassador’s son Ahmet Ertegun looks back on over a half-century producing blues, jazz, R&B, soul and rock.
Relax and celebrate work and the music it has inspired on this Labor Day edition of American Routes. Worldly blues man and one-time farmhand Taj Mahal talks about tilling the soil as well as plowing through musical boundaries. Oral historian and radio man Studs Terkel discusses work in America and his own labors over the decades. And New Orleans tinsmith and trumpeter Lionel Ferbos recalls balancing two careers. You’ll also hear a work-related music mix including Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis, Nina Simone, Roy Orbison and many more.