American Routes Shortcuts: Mothers Day

May 12, 2017

Sonny Rollins
Credit American Routes

Each week, American Routes brings you Shortcuts, a sneak peek at the upcoming show. This week, we celebrate Mothers Day with a montage of musicians, honoring their moms. To hear the full program, tune into WWNO Saturdays at 7 or Sundays at 6 or listen at

We’ve got saxophonist Sonny Rollins on the essential support from his mother to persevere in jazz. Also Creole accordionist Geno Delafose tells of Mama coming out to the dance hall. And St. Louis soul singer Fontella Bass telling a tale of trying to take a train out of town, until her mother found out.

NS: Tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins were from the Virgin Islands, though he grew up in Harlem. This is just a taste of Sonny Rollins composition, “Oleo” played by the Miles Davis Quartet.

SR: My grandmother was against my actually going into jazz music. It was a long, long time before she kind of accepted the fact that this was an acceptable profession, and something that I could make a living off of and all this stuff. My mother on the other hand was a very artistic woman and a very industrious woman and she went to night school and all this stuff. So she was in favor of whatever I did- she was right in my corner, whatever I did, she had great faith in me.

NS: Sonny Rollins, a man of colossal talents, and perseverance he credits to his mother.

GD: Hey Mom! Happy Mothers Day. This is your baby boy Geno Delafose.

She was married to my father for 31 or 32 years. Always came out to the dances ever since Daddy first started playing. She was actually the PR person of the band - people would come hear us play and they’d ask, “well where’s your mom, where’s your mom?” and she was kinda the party starter and everything else. Always kept us well-fed

NS: She’d wear a cowboy hat and kind of a leopard skin scarf or shirt - she always had a pepped up look out there.

GD: Oh yeah, you knew who Ms. Delafose was, that’s for sure.

NS: For American Routes Shortcuts, I’m Nick Spitzer. Coming up, St. Louis soul singer Fontella Bass.

FB: They had try-outs for singers for the show. And we were in the tent, my best friend to this day, Sophia and Johnese, they were with me. And Sophie sent my name up, without me knowing. They wanted me to go on the road with them. So I said I was gonna leave, you know, because I was grown and gone from home. So now I’m on the train, thinking I’m leaving St. Louis for this big, great career, you know I gotta make it, I gotta be somebody. And I hear this voice, “do anyone know Fontella, has anyone seen Fontella?” I say, “dog, that’s my mom!” And she literally whooped me off the train.