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Arts & Culture

  • Mona Lisa Saloy is a folklorist, poet, professor, and in 2021 was named Louisiana Poet Laureate. Her poems document and celebrate Creole culture in New Orleans, food, language, music, and more. She's written about sidewalk songs, jump-rope rhymes, hand-clap games, and the Black oral tradition of toasting. Mona Lisa's poetry grew from her youth in New Orleans' Seventh Ward, where music was a major part of life.
  • This is American Routes, celebrating the music and musicians of Arhoolie Records. The Berkeley-based record company is devoted to roots music, blues and jazz, Mexican and Cajun, gospel and country. Arhoolie Records was founded in 1960 by producer Chris Strachwitz. He recently celebrated his 91st birthday. “Arhoolie” is a word for an African American field holler in the South. Young Chris Strachwitz arrived in America from Germany after the war. The first thing he loved was jump jazz on the radio and on jukeboxes. In school Chris discovered hillbilly and mariachi music on border radio. He skipped class to hear Kid Ory, George Lewis, Big Jay McNeely and Muddy Waters. That's a good education for his future life as a record producer. I visited Chris in back of his record store in El Cerrito, California and asked how Arhoolie Records began.
  • This is American Routes, our program about Detroit, the Motor City, Motown, and here's where the rubber meets the road from recording studio to assembly line for Smokey Robinson. Smokey is one of the enduring figures of American music and a lover of the Motor City. Born William Robinson in 1940, he came out singing from a tough Detroit neighborhood and went on to become a songwriter and producer for Motown Records. Smokey's sweet songs and falsetto voice helped define the sound. "You've Really Got a Hold on Me," "Tears of a Clown," "Ooh Baby Baby" were among his many hits. He wrote "Get Ready," "My Girl," and "My Guy" for others: the Temptations, Mary Wells, the Marvelettes, the list goes on. Let's hear from Smokey about where it started.
  • The Historic New Orleans Collection spotlights Helena Moreno.
  • Jon Cleary may have been born in Kent, England but his musical upbringing was all New Orleans. He came to the city after college in 1980 and began his real education in the clubs, where he put in time as a sideman with heroes like Ernie K-Doe, Walter “Wolfman” Washington, and Snooks Eaglin. Cleary became a world-renowned hired gun, playing with Eric Clapton, BB King, Dr. John and Bonnie Raitt. On the home scene, Jon takes center stage playing solo shows as well as fronting his own band, the Absolute Monster Gentlemen. A while back, I sat down with Jon Cleary at the piano in his 9th Ward home, an old hardware store, and asked him how an English kid in the 1970s was introduced to the music of the Crescent City.
  • We've been digging in the archives for a series of live concerts between 1993-2001 in front of a million people annually on the National Mall from the Washington Monument to the White House fence and millions more on public radio nationwide. It was the roots of American Routes. I was lucky enough to serve as artistic director for the concerts, sometimes stage and radio host. Coming up we'll hear the late bluesy pianoman/singer Charles Brown and band, Mariachi Los Camperos de Nati Cano, Hawaiian slack key guitar music and Western swing from the Texas Playboys. First, from New Orleans, it’s the Original Tuxedo Brass Band, with pianist Henry Butler.