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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
  • Shemekia Copeland's dad, Texas guitarist Johnny Copeland, moved his family to Harlem, where Shemekia was born and grew up surrounded by hip-hop, but dedicated to the blues. She's been in the blues scene since she was a little girl singing at her dad's shows. All grown up she's recorded nine albums and won numerous awards for her music. We began back in those early days, on stage, with her father.
  • John Mayall and his band the Bluesbreakers pioneered British blues-rock, introducing it to a large audience. They included musicians who went on to join legendary bands like Cream, Fleetwood Mac, and the Rolling Stones. Mayall moved to the States in 1968, and today has a discography of 70 studio and live albums. Now 88 and retired from touring, John calls Los Angeles home and his favorite climate for living, but it was in Macclesfield, Cheshire where he first heard the blues.
  • This is American Routes, I'm Nick Spitzer. I was invited to the 2013 Americana Music Festival in Nashville where on stage at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, I had a chance to interview the recipient of that year’s Lifetime Achievement Award: New Orleans’ Dr. John. It was a busy year for Dr. John. He won a Grammy for the Best Blues Album for Locked Down, produced by The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach, and he received an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts here at Tulane University, making the Nite Tripper Doctor Dr. John in our minds.
  • This is American Routes with a tribute to the legendary New Orleans drummer, James Black. Black also composed tunes like "Monkey Puzzle" and "Dee Wee," both recorded by Ellis Marsalis' ensemble in the early 1960s. As a composer, Black received support from the National Endowment for the Arts.
  • This is American Routes, our program with words and music as a metaphor or extension of life in the circus, where not everyone is a man on the flying trapeze. We’re going to swing out with Dolly Jacobs, who was named a National Heritage Fellow in 2015. A Ringling Brothers aerialist, Dolly was born into a circus family. At fourteen, she learned what it would take to distinguish herself and the risks involved.
  • For Black residents from the South, during the Great Migration North in the 1940's and 50's, gospel music defined the sacred side of life. In Chicago, churches served as places of community, musical joy, and healing. A tradition of quartet singing grew with groups like the Clefs of Cavalry, Holy Wonders, and the Highway Q.C.’s. These groups toured on gospel circuits nationwide, had record deals and radio shows. Group members often changed; Sam Cooke, Lou Rawls, and Johnnie Taylor had all been in the Highway Q.C.’s before each turned to secular music. Spencer Taylor Jr. was a member of the Holy Wonders when the Q.C.’s came calling in the 1950s. I sat down with Mr. Taylor and his son, Spencer Taylor III, of the Highway Q.C.’s, to talk about his long life leading the ensemble.
  • Christian Parish Takes the Gun, also known as Supaman, is an Apsáalooke rapper from Crow Agency, Montana. Supaman grew up in and out of foster care with alcoholic parents. He turned to hip-hop to escape from struggles he faced on the reservation. His music draws on a connection from urban style and words to cultural and spiritual life as a Native American. Supaman preserves his culture with his music and fancy dancing to express himself and uplift those around him.
  • 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.
  • New Orleans jazz clarinet queen Doreen Ketchens is beloved by locals and tourists alike. Rain or shine, Doreen’s magnetic performance draws crowds to the corner of Royal and St. Peter each weekend. Although now known for playing jazz, Doreen Ketchens trained as a classical clarinetist. She started improvising and busking with her husband Lawrence in 1987. He now plays sousaphone with her on Royal Street, along with daughter, Dorian, on drums. Doreen has risen from the street to national prominence, global touring, feature films and viral videos, but she remains rooted in New Orleans.
  • This is American Routes for St. Patrick's, with singers, fiddlers and pickers from Ireland to Appalachia live in this hour. Sharing Irish, bluegrass and country tunes with one another at the 80th National Folk Festival. Beginning with brothers Rob and Ronnie McCoury playing banjo and mandolin on stage in Salisbury, Maryland, 2021 with Ronnie's tune, " Quicksburg Rondevouz."