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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
  • Steve Masakowski has worked with Allen Toussaint, Mose Allison, Dianne Reeves, and many others. He’s a Blue Note recording artist, member of the fusion group Astral Project, inventor of the keytar, and professor of Jazz Studies at the University of New Orleans. Steve is also father to professional musicians Sasha and Martin Masakowski. In 2018, we spoke to all three about their home life, solo careers, and performing together as the Masakowski Family.
  • Bessie Smith, Empress of the Blues, was the first African American superstar, an artist that mingled regal dignity with sensuality. We’ll sample her recorded legacy, talk with critics and hear memories of her contemporaries from the Jazz Age of the 1920s.
  • Wylie Gustafson grew up in Conrad, Montana, where his father raised quarter horses and rode rodeo. The family also had a cattle ranch up on the Blackfoot Reservation by the Canadian border. While raising fine horses, Wylie built a music career with his band, the Wild West. After playing music in Southern California and training horses in Washington State, Wylie resettled on a ranch back in Montana, where his love of cowboy music had started out with his father.
  • The drummer Ahmir Thompson, is known as Questlove, from the hip-hop band, the Roots. Questlove loves his hometown. He studied at Philadelphia’s High School for Creative and Performing Arts and took his sound to the streets in the late ‘80s. Since then, the Roots have found worldwide success and are the house band on NBC’s Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Back in 2010, I asked Questlove what it’s like to be a musician from Philadelphia.
  • We feature gospel and R&B singer Mavis Staples, from the second installment of our show all about Bob Dylan. Bob Dylan admired the civil rights songs of the Staples Singers and would hear them on tour in the early ‘60s. Mavis Staples remembers when her father, Pops, heard Dylan for the first time and how Dylan’s protest lyrics influenced their family in return.
  • 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.
  • This is American Routes, our program, “How many Roads? Bob Dylan’s Back Pages.” Joan Baez sang and recorded many of Bob’s songs of love and loss.
  • This is American Routes Live, I’m Nick Spitzer. We’ve got jazz trumpeter from Preservation Hall, Wendell Brunious with his New Orleans All Stars.Wendell Brunious is from a famed New Orleans Creole jazz family. He is the son of Nazimova Santiago and John Brunious, Sr., a trumpeter who played with Onward Brass and Young Tuxedo Brass Bands, and Paul Barbarin. Wendell Brunious’ brother was the late John Brunious, Jr., also a trumpeter who lead the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Over the years, Wendell Brunious sang with Chief John and the Mahogany Hall Stompers in the 1960s. He studied at Southern University, worked with Danny Barker in the ‘70s, and later played on Bourbon Street and with Kid Thomas Valentine, Eureka Brass, Lionel Hampton, Linda Hopkins, Sammy Rimington and Louis Nelson. Right now it’s Wendell Brunious and band on American Routes Live.
  • This is American Routes, I’m Nick Spitzer. We’ll be traveling to southern France to meet that most American of cartoonists: the often beloved and sometimes reviled Robert Crumb, with his social criticism, politically incorrect and sexually explicit characters: Fritz the Cat and Mr. Natural, Flakey Foont and Angelfood McSpade–drawings and earthy dramas that made him the comic book king of the high hippie era. But R. Crumb is also deeply drawn to the nostalgia of old America heard on 78 RPM records. He’s collected over seven thousand of the platters.
  • Baton Rouge guitarist, harp player and singer Kenny Neal is a second-generation leader in the city’s blues scene, born into a family of ten children. Kenny’s father Raful Neal was a noted harmonica player, influenced by Little Walter and played in a local band with Buddy Guy. Raful Neal’s friend Slim Harpo gave son Kenny Neal his first harmonica at age three. Kenny started playing bass for his father at thirteen and went on to Buddy Guy’s band. Later, he recruited his siblings to form the Neal Brothers Blues Band. In 1989, Kenny recorded a breakout swamp blues LP Big News from Baton Rouge for Alligator Records. His fine guitar work and harmonica, as well as authoritative voice, carried him forward making sixteen more records. Kenny carries on the Baton Rouge blues tradition. Let’s go to to the Juke Joint stage at West Baton Rouge Parish Museum with Kenny Neal.