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American Routes
Saturdays at 5 p.m. and Sundays at 6 p.m.

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.

Latest Episodes
  • We’re live at Marigny Studios with Little Freddie King, an old school bluesman from McComb, Mississippi who lives in New Orleans’ 9th Ward. Little Freddie is a great teller of tales. During the session, we talked about his comings and goings in music, and I asked about the story behind his homemade first guitar.
  • Who was Harry Smith? The short answer about the 20th century polymath and hustler might be divined in his legendary Anthology of American Folk Music from 1952, an LP collection of mostly Southern US folk music on 78rpm records. The Anthology established a cult of listening and influenced popular and folk revival artists from John Sebastian and the New Lost City Ramblers to rockers like Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead and Beck. In addition to music recording and wide ranging research into tribal and other cultures, Harry Smith was a painter on canvas and on film. He was a profound thinker and worker in the American vernacular.
  • This is American Routes, following the roots of doo-wop music into rock and roll as part of the life of singer and songmaker Dion DiMucci. Dion was born into a Bronx, New York Italian family in 1939. His father was in vaudeville. Dion gained notoriety as a singer with an appearance on American Bandstand. Back in the neighborhood, he made street music called doo-wop. I asked Dion how an immigrants’ son from the Bronx was able to channel the Southern music of his youth into doo-wop and rock and roll.
  • Come along for an historic jaunt around New Orleans, as we visit great nightclubs including the legendary Uptown institution Tipitina’s, founded by fourteen close friends in 1977, who wanted a place to hang out and hear players like Professor Longhair, Dr. John, James Booker, and the Neville Brothers. Some years ago, one of the original Tipitina’s founders, Jeanne Dumestre, told us about a 1973 letter that indirectly led to the founding of the club.
  • 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, sometime 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.
  • This is American Routes Live with Don Vappie and friends. Don is from a New Orleans Creole family and is a studied purveyor of jazz banjo. He knows much about the history of the music and the instrument, going back to origins in West Africa. I asked Don about New Orleans banjo players.
  • Don Bryant was the fifth of ten children, grew up listening to his father’s gospel group, and started singing in church at age five. Don began harmonizing with his family and neighbors and went on to form the Four Kings with his brothers singing on Dick “Cane” Cole’s popular WLOK radio show. The group joined up with Willie Mitchell’s band; Don Bryant was lead singer. Bryant later pursued a solo career, but mostly focused on writing material for other artists at Hi Records and continued singing in church. Don returned to singing secular music in his 70s after an invitation from Memphis soul band the Bo-Keys. He released an album in 2017, called Don’t Give Up on Love, his first secular album in 48 years. Don’s latest record, You Make Me Feel, came out in 2020.
  • I first visited with Norah Jones almost 20 years ago– you can see her hanging out at our old studios on the American Routes website. She was touring then with her first record, “Come Away With Me.” That went on to garner five Grammys. We dug into our archives for the second interview with Norah in 2011, talking about her country group, the Little Willies, and musical friends, including singer songwriter Richard Julian. Norah says the band owes a debt to “Wurlitzer Prize” by Willie Nelson’s old friend, the late Waylon Jennings.
  • From our archives, it’s a visit with Yale anthropologist David Watts, an old friend of mine. David loves jazz and plays classical violin, but his true virtuosity is in the savannas and rain forests of East Africa, where he has long walked and worked gracefully among wild primates. David's been in it long enough that he's named many of his wild-primate colleagues after movie stars, classical composers, and jazz musicians. I asked him why we are so attracted to gorillas, monkeys and chimps.
  • Fiddler and banjo player John Morris grew up in Clay County, West Virginia’s old-time music traditions. He learned banjo from his grandfather and guitar from his mother. John picked up the fiddle, absorbing tunes and stories of local fiddlers. He and his brother David played together as the Morris Brothers and started the Morris Family Old-Time Music Festival at their family home in Ivydale. John shared the story of how they got the festival started.