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Songs That Keep Ruby Dee Cooking In The Kitchen


And now it's time for the occasional series we call In Your Ear. That's where previous guests on our program tell us what they listen to for a little inspiration.

Today we hear from Texas rockabilly singer Ruby Dee. We spoke to her about her cookbook "Ruby's Juke Joint Americana Cookbook." We also talked about how Ruby was inspired to write the cookbook. It was part of the recovery process she went through after a head trauma she suffered in an accident.

RUBY DEE: To do a sort of cognitive therapy, I started writing out stories and then I realized after a while that I was cheating little bit. If I couldn't think of the word for, for instance, couch, I would use the word sofa and I'd get by with that. And so I realized I wasn't really exercising my brain as much as I wanted to, and the way to do that I figured out was to write the recipes that my friends and family had been asking me to write down for years. So I started doing that, and that was great. That was really good, hard exercise. Because after all, in recipes you can't cheat, you can't substitute an ingredient with another ingredient and call it the same thing. It's - you know, cinnamon is cinnamon.

MARTIN: And that you found that that really helped.

DEE: It really helped. I'm able to have this conversation with you and make it through and make sense.

MARTIN: Now we'll hear the songs they keep Ruby Dee cooking in the kitchen.


DEE: Well, hi, this is Ruby Dee and this is what's playing in my ear these days.


LYLE LOVETT: (Singing) You say you're not from Texas, man, as if I couldn't tell. Well, you think you pull your boots on right and wear your hat so well.

DEE: That's Lyle Lovett doing "That's Right You're Not From Texas." And one of the things I love about this song is that it's got, you know, in your face a little bit but it's also got some good cheer to it. I love that song.


LOVETT: (Singing) When he saw the promised land. That's right you're not from Texas. That's right you're not from Texas. That's right you're not from Texas. But Texas wants you anyway. That's right you're not from Texas. That's right you're not from Texas. That's right you're not from Texas. But Texas wants you anyway. See I was, I was born and raised in Texas. And it means so much to me. Though my girl comes from down...

DEE: Another artist I'm listening to these days is Rosie Flores. I love Rosie. She's a friend of mine and I just can't get enough of listening to her. And this is one of her songs, called "Get Rhythm." It's just fun to get up and dance to.


ROSIE FLORES: (Singing) Little shoeshine boy never gets low down. And he's got the dirtiest job in town. Bendin' low at the people's feet, on the windy corner of the dirty street. When I asked him while he shined my shoes, how'd he keeps from gettin' the blues? He grinned and he shook his little head. Popped a shoeshine rag and then he said; Get rhythm, get rhythm when you get the blues...


ELVIS PRESLEY: (Singing) The warden threw a party in the county jail. The prison band was there and they began to wail. The band was jumpin' and the joint...

DEE: Another song I'm listening to is Elvis Presley's "Jailhouse Rock."


PRESLEY: (Singing) ...jailbirds sing. Let's rock. Everybody, let's rock. Everybody in the whole cell block was dancin' to the Jailhouse Rock. Spider Murphy...

DEE: The reason I love that song so much, just because it's fun, fun, fun.


PRESLEY: (Singing) ...slide trombone. The drummer boy from Illinois went crash, boom, bang. The whole rhythm section was a purple gang. Let's rock. Everybody...

MARTIN: That was rockabilly singer Ruby Dee telling us what's playing in her ear. To listen to our previous conversation, you can just go to our website,, click on the Programs tab and hit TELL ME MORE.


PRESLEY: (Singing) ...47 said to number three, you're the cutest jailbird I ever did see. I sure would be delighted with your company. Come on and do the Jailhouse Rock with me. Let's rock. Everybody, let's rock.

MARTIN: And that's our program for today. I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE, from NPR News. Let's talk more tomorrow. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.

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