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  • Trudy Lynn, born Lee Audrey Nelms, grew up surrounded by music in Houston. Duke and Peacock Records, two Black-owned labels were blocks from her home. She saw legends like Joe Hinton and Bobby "Blue" Bland by the Club Matinee on her way to school. Her parents loved blues, and Trudy sang while her father tap-danced and played harmonica on the porch. She also sang in church, started a girl group, the Chromatics, with her school friends, became a vocalist with Clarence Green, and opened for Ike and Tina Turner. In 1989, she went solo on a recording called Trudy Sings the Blues. I spoke to her in Houston, where she still sings the blues.
  • This week, we’re recalling the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr, where we’ll hear memories from those who knew him. Mabel John has been a Los Angeles community preacher for more than twenty years, but she earned fame as an R&B singer with both Motown and Stax Records. Her family of ten children grew up singing gospel music together and later the blues. Mabel's brother, Little Willie John, is famous for his song, “Fever.” When Mabel was an R&B singer, she met Martin Luther King.
  • 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.
  • Pianist Tom McDermott is a native of St. Louis and a lifetime explorer of the music downriver here in New Orleans, across the Caribbean and to Brazil. Singer Meschiya Lake started out in Rapid City, South Dakota and landed hereabouts as a circus performer. Meschiya and Tom came together for us in the sonic wooden glory of an old Presbyterian church, now called Esplanade Studios.
  • This is American Routes for Christmas, Kwanzaa, New Years, and beyond. I’m Nick Spitzer in New Orleans, where holiday second lines are in the streets, French Réveillon feasts in the restaurants, and house light decor ranges from downhome color schemes to grandiose yard display. This hour we explore Santa’s exploits, fallibility, and possibility with songs from Baltimore’s Fat Daddy, Tampa Red and Tennessee Ernie Ford. Also Christmas songs and celebrations from French Louisiana to Mexico and Puerto Rico, holiday blues from Chuck Berry and Charles Brown, the abolitionist version of “O Holy Night” from soul queen Irma Thomas, and the ancient carol “Greensleeves” from John Coltrane. Right now let's get back out on “Santa’s Second Line” with New Orleans’ New Birth Brass Band on American Routes.
  • Raul Malo was born in Miami to Cuban parents. In 1989 he started The Mavericks. Named for going against the grain, the Mavericks began in the punk and alternative scene and eventually found great success in country music, incorporating Latin, rockabilly, and pop sounds. By 2000, the group parted ways and Raul Malo pursued a solo career in LA. He joined Los Super Seven with Joe Ely, Freddy Fender, members of Los Lobos, Max Baca, Doug Sahm, and others. In 2012, Malo reunited with the Mavericks, releasing several albums and touring widely. In 2020, they released En Español, an album entirely in Spanish. Making a record like this took Raul many years of listening within and outside his family.
  • Eddie Cotton grew up in the Church of God in Christ in Clinton, Mississippi near Jackson. He heard guitar-playing deacons and preachers. His father was a preacher who bought Eddie his first guitar when he was six with plans for him to play for the congregation. After leading the church band, Eddie went on to study music theory at Jackson State University, where he realized that gospel and blues shared the same form, and developed a sound that incorporated blues, gospel, and soul. He continued playing music in church, but pursued a career in blues, opening for Ike Turner and B.B. King, while sticking with fellow musicians in Mississippi and his family.
  • Pianist Jeff Little takes fiddle melodies and flat-pick guitar leads that he grew up hearing and plays them on the piano in lightning-fast runs. Emerging as a prodigy and player in North Carolina, Jeff Little went on to work as a Nashville session man. Toured with country artists, including Keith Urban and John Michael Montgomery, and continued his solo gig. After twenty years in Nashville, he returned to Appalachia as an educator. Jeff told us about his mentors at his dad's music shop in the Blue Ridge.
  • It's that time of year for gathering with family and friends in thanksgiving, but also for us at American Routes, it's time to celebrate the National Endowment for the Arts Heritage Fellows. Each year the NEA recognizes traditional artists for their excellence and contributions to our nation’s heritage. It's the highest award in the traditional arts. The Winnsboro Easter Rock ensemble carries on a women's African American spiritual ritual. Originally performed by enslaved Africans in the northeast Louisiana Delta region. It combines Christian worship and the West African ring shout tradition. The Easter Rock is held the day before Easter with call and response vocals, foot stomping, food, and symbols to commemorate the death and resurrection of Christ. The Winnsboro Easter Rock Ensemble are the last known practitioners of the ritual, and they've taken the tradition outside of the church to the Louisiana Folklife Festival and the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.
  • The Hi Rhythm Section began as brothers and friends. The Hodges brothers: Teenie on guitar, Leroy, bass, and Charles on organ; joined by Howard Grimes, drums and "Hubbie" Turner on piano. The brothers grew up in a musical family. They joined their father's blues band, the Germantown Blue Dots. Hubbie Turner's mother was married to producer Willie Mitchell and was friends with the Hodges brothers who all became Willie Mitchell's band. In the late 60s, when Mitchell moved from playing clubs to producing in studios, they changed their name to Hi Rhythm Section. We had a chance to sit down with friends. Rev. Charles Hodges and Hubbie Turner, to talk about working in the studio with "Poppa Willie" Mitchell. After playing a high school talent show, Rev. Hodges started out on the road with Memphis soul singer O.V. Wright.