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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
  • This is American Routes Live with New Orleans trombonist Corey Henry and his Treme Funktet at Marigny Studios, at the edge of the French Quarter. As the name of the band suggests, the Faubourg Tremé is an important part of Corey’s family history and his development as a musician. I asked him about the origins of the group.
  • Los Cenzontles means “the mockingbirds” in the indigenous Nahuatl language. The band mixes traditional Mexican music with contemporary sounds including American rock and soul. They’ve collaborated with Linda Ronstadt, Taj Mahal, David Hidalgo of Los Lobos, and Jackson Browne, but their main collaborators are children. Los Cenzontles is also a community-based arts academy that teaches music, dance, arts and crafts to its young students. We sat down with Los Cenzontles’ founder and guitarist Eugene Rodriguez and with singers Lucina Rodriguez, and Fabiola Trujillo.
  • This is American Routes, about to go into the studio with Creole jazz and soul singer John Boutté. You may know him for singing his theme for the TV series Tremé. John comes from an African, French, Spanish, Native, and Irish family background that begins in the mid-18th century New Orleans. His immediate family numbered ten kids; singing was a household and street corner pastime. John counts the influence of jazz elders, like Paul Barbarin, Louis “Big Eye” Nelson, and Danny Barker, as well as New Orleans piano and vocal heroes like Allen Toussaint, Dr. John, and James Booker. The quality of his voice has been recognized by Stevie Wonder. He's been paired in shows with Lou Rawls and Herbie Hancock. A New Orleans vocal icon who was raised in a storied, musical neighborhood. I asked John about it.
  • Our guest is singer, pianist and octogenarian Tommy McClain, one of the last standing Louisiana swamp pop singers. He told us how much he enjoyed being on the road, singing for new audiences. Tommy is known in Louisiana for his hit 1966 cover of “Sweet Dreams” and his contributions to swamp pop. He’s also recorded gospel music, wrote songs for Freddy Fender and toured with the Dick Clark Road Shows in the 1960s. Tommy’s now back in the studio with Elvis Costello and producer C.C. Adcock and recorded a 2022 album I Ran Down Every Dream. Entertaining has been a constant for him since his early days in Pineville, LA singing for his family and listening to the Grand Ole Opry. But his whole path changed when he went to a concert nearby in Alexandria.
  • 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.
  • This is American Routes, where we’re about to meet one of our heroes. The late Ellas McDaniel was born not too far from New Orleans in McComb, MS and as a child moved with his family to Chicago, where he earned the nickname Bo Diddley. Bo wrote and recorded a stream of classic songs for Chess Records in the 1950s. He was one of the inventors of rock and roll. I spoke with Bo Diddley on a 2002 tour stop in New Orleans. I asked Bo how childhood had shaped his approach to 50 years in music.
  • 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.
  • Aurelio Martinez grew up in the Garifuna village of Plaplaya on the Caribbean coast of Honduras. He’s a percussionist, singer and guitarist who’s played in noted musical groups of Honduras, and now maintains connections to his Garifuna roots while living in the Bronx, NY, where his parents also reside. Aurelio is a native speaker of Garifuna and Spanish and a member of the Honduran Congress. We began our conversation talking about his first instrument.
  • Guitarist Jim Kweskin has been making jug band music for over half a century. He started performing in the 1950s at the famed Club 47 in Boston, and in the 1960s, the Jim Kweskin Band with Geoff and Maria Muldaur, Fritz Richmond and Mel Lyman emerged as interpreters and innovators of the jug band style for a national audience. I asked Jim how he first became aware of Southern folk music, Gus Cannon and the jug bands of the 1920s.
  • 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.