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  • 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.
  • This is American Routes, our program about Detroit, the Motor City, Motown, and here's where the rubber meets the road from recording studio to assembly line for Smokey Robinson. Smokey is one of the enduring figures of American music and a lover of the Motor City. Born William Robinson in 1940, he came out singing from a tough Detroit neighborhood and went on to become a songwriter and producer for Motown Records. Smokey's sweet songs and falsetto voice helped define the sound. "You've Really Got a Hold on Me," "Tears of a Clown," "Ooh Baby Baby" were among his many hits. He wrote "Get Ready," "My Girl," and "My Guy" for others: the Temptations, Mary Wells, the Marvelettes, the list goes on. Let's hear from Smokey about where it started.
  • Jon Cleary may have been born in Kent, England but his musical upbringing was all New Orleans. He came to the city after college in 1980 and began his real education in the clubs, where he put in time as a sideman with heroes like Ernie K-Doe, Walter “Wolfman” Washington, and Snooks Eaglin. Cleary became a world-renowned hired gun, playing with Eric Clapton, BB King, Dr. John and Bonnie Raitt. On the home scene, Jon takes center stage playing solo shows as well as fronting his own band, the Absolute Monster Gentlemen. A while back, I sat down with Jon Cleary at the piano in his 9th Ward home, an old hardware store, and asked him how an English kid in the 1970s was introduced to the music of the Crescent City.
  • 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, sometimes 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.
  • The late Earl Scruggs was the definitive bluegrass banjo player of the 20th century. From his distinctive three finger roll technique to influential years with Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys, Flatt & Scruggs, and later the Earl Scruggs Revue. He's also written famous tunes like “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” and “Flint Hill Special.” Scruggs had a long journey from his birthplace in Flint Hill, North Carolina, where he worked in the textile mills to his arrival in 1945 at the Grand Ole Opry's Ryman Auditorium in downtown Nashville. It's at that venerable church of country music that Earl and his sons, Gary and Randy, recorded a retrospective concert in 2008. We began with Earl's best family memory at Ryman: seeing a young woman who locked eyes with him from the audience. She would become Earl's wife and manager of many years: the late Louise Scruggs.
  • It's American Routes from New Orleans with sounds of freedom and struggle for Juneteenth. Freddie Hubbard's trumpet and flugelhorn were in great demand in the 1960's. He played on albums with pianist Herbie Hancock, straight ahead jazz drummer Art Blakey, and the free jazz explorations of John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman. Hubbard was a prolific composer and leader in his own right, known for his anti-Vietnam war piece, "Sing Me A Song Of Songmy." Freddie Hubbard was a fixture in the New York jazz scene for over fifty years, but when he first left Indianapolis at the tender age of twenty, Freddie says he had a hard time adjusting to life in the big city.