American Routes

Saturdays at 5 p.m. and Sundays at 6 p.m.
  • Hosted by Nick Spitzer

American Routes is a two-hour weekly excursion into American music, spanning eras and genres—roots rock and soul, blues and country, jazz, gospel and beyond.

Aretha Franklin
American Routes

After Aretha Franklin signed with Atlantic Records in 1967, producer Jerry Wexler brought her to record in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Known for its local recording studios, including FAME and Muscle Shoals Sound, the Tennessee River town produced many hits and allowed the black and white music worlds to coalesce.  In 1967, Aretha recorded her first big hit, “I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You)” at FAME studios, but all did not go smoothly. Studio guitarist Jimmy Johnson tells the story. 


Autumn Equinox & Remembering Aretha Franklin

Sep 17, 2019

As temperatures begin to dip and the leaves turn color, we celebrate the Autumnal Equinox with a soundtrack for the changing season.

American Routes Shortcuts: Guilty Pleasures Volume 2

Sep 13, 2019
Guilty Pleasures
American Routes

In 2017, we created a program called “Guilty Pleasures.” Actually here in New Orleans “guilty” is not often used as an adjective for pleasure, but in the rest of America a guilty pleasure is liking something you’re not supposed to like or that’s not cool to like.  That has really never been our philosophy on American Routes. We revel in the freedom to create an eclectic flow in these days of algorithmic radio. For “Guilty Pleasures Vol. 2,” we asked listeners to make suggestions, and then we built segues around them. 

Guilty Pleasures Volume 2: Then & Now

Sep 10, 2019

For Volume 2 of our Guilty Pleasures series, we revel in the freedom to create an eclectic flow—during these days of algorithmic radio—from Lotte Lenya singing “Mack the Knife” to a Japanese take on Archie Bell and the Drells’ “Tighten Up.” We look toward summer with music from the Kinks and John Prine, and cool down with tunes by Ramsey Lewis and Oscar Brown, Jr. Plus some listener-requested guilty pleasures from Bob Marley to Bonnie Raitt. Sit back, tune in, and indulge guilt-free!

American Routes Shortcuts: Jesse Colin Young

Sep 6, 2019
Jesse Colin Young
American Routes

Jesse Colin Young’s career began in Greenwich Village during the 60’s folk revival. After releasing solo albums, Jesse teamed up with guitarist Jerry Corbitt, keyboardist and guitarist Lowell "Banana" Levinger, and drummer Joe Bauer to form the Youngbloods. Their iconic 1967 hit “Get Together,” originally by Dino Valenti, called for peace and unity. Young moved to the San Francisco area in 1969, but relocated to Hawaii after he lost his house in a fire in 1995. He used music to get through those hard times and suffering from Lyme disease.

We peer into the minds of musical dreamers of the past and present, exploring dreams of love, immigration, and a more perfect union. Singer songmaker Jesse Colin Young of the Youngbloods speaks of the 60’s folk revival in Greenwich Village and his dreams realized in the anthemic 1967 song “Get Together.” Then, Haitian American cellist and singer Leyla McCalla describes her journey from New York to New Orleans, connecting the cultural histories she’d long dreamed of along the way. Plus dreamscapes from Rhiannon Giddens, Los Cenzontles, Mahalia Jackson and John Prine.

American Routes Shortcuts: Earl Barthé

Aug 30, 2019
Earl Barthé
American Routes

This holiday weekend we have live music from the French Quarter Festival as a soundtrack for a break from work. In New Orleans, there has long been a link between the work of building artisans and music. Johnny St. Cyr was a jazz banjo player in Louis Armstrong’s band, The late trumpeter Lionel Ferbos was a tin smith. Mardi Gras Indian Chief Tootie Montana was a lather. R&B piano player Eddie Bo was a carpenter. In 2002 the New Orleans Museum of Art presented “Raised to the Trade,” an exhibition of Creole building arts based on research by the urban studies program at the University of New Orleans. Among the many people interviewed was the late Earl Barthé. Mr. Barthé would go on to receive a National Endowment for the Arts Heritage Award in 2005 and appear posthumously in a recent PBS film Good Work

Labor Day Live from New Orleans

Aug 27, 2019

This Labor Day weekend, we’re rockin’ from the French Quarter Festival: a free, homegrown, four-day annual event featuring a vast array of local music presented on stages throughout the city's oldest neighborhood. We'll hear from trumpeter Kermit Ruffins, Creole banjo man Don Vappie, zydeco accordionist Bruce “Sunpie” Barnes and the Louisiana Sunspots, the all-female Original Pinettes Brass Band, Latin rockers the Iguanas, and trombonist Corey Henry’s Tremé Funket.

American Routes Shortcuts: Big Jay McNeely

Aug 23, 2019
Big Jay McNeely
American Routes

At the most human scale Los Angeles is defined by the scenes along legendary streets: Sunset Boulevard, Melrose, La Brea, and Central Avenue. Beginning in the 1920s, Central Avenue was the place to hear jazz, later R&B and bebop. For the late tenor sax player Big Jay McNeely, the scene began on Central Avenue.

Los Angeles: Soundtrack for the Angels

Aug 20, 2019

In this special program, we uncover the music and cultural traditions of Los Angeles: from Hollywood to neighborhood. Join us as we travel across the City of Angels to hear from L.A. legends—including Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys and songwriter Randy Newman— and explore 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. Plus conversations and music from Mexican-American rock band Los Lobos, R & B saxophonist Big Jay McNeely, and rockabilly guitarist Glen Glenn.