Rockabilly, Western Swing, jazz, blues, Tejano, Cajun, Czech – the big sounds of Texas are incredibly diverse. American Routes explores that vast terrain visiting with Bandera, TX singer-songwriter Robert Earl Keen, Tejano accordion master Mingo Saldivar, and the King of Western Swing, Bob Wills is remembered by his fiddler Johnny Gimble, daughter Rosetta Wills, Bill Malone, Ray Price and Marle Haggard. Other musical Texans on tap include Illinois Jacquet, Townes van Zandt, and T-Bone Walker.
Visiting literal makers of music, crafters of instruments and sounds. Luthier Wayne Henderson takes us to his Virginia workshop for an old-time country jam session with Doc Watson. Robert Moog, of Moog Synthesizer fame, tells about creating electronic keyboards, and Sam Phillips of Memphis’ Sun Records recounts the reverb slap that shaped the sound of rock and rollers Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash.
Honoring the late Civil Rights leader with two hours of songs and stories in his spirit from inspiring leaders in music past and present. Harry Belafonte—a confidant of MLK— recalls his career in music and social activism, including the “Anthology of African-American Music.” Plus tales of one of jazz’s great eccentrics – Sun Ra – remembered by band members Marshall Allen and Michael Ray, and biographer John Szwed.
Two hours of music surrounding the forefather of the blues, Robert Johnson. The guitarist and singer is remembered by four other Delta bluesmen: guitarist Johnny Shines rode the rails with Johnson in the 1930s, pianist and guitarist Henry Townsend jammed with him, Robert Junior Lockwood is Johnson’s stepson and the late diddly-bow player Lonnie Pitchford followed in his footsteps. We’ll also hear Johnson tunes in the hands of latter-day artists the Rolling Stones and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.