This week on American Routes, we’ll first take a tour of the Lewis Family Museum and liquor store in Ferriday, LA, where Jerry Lee Lewis’ sister Frankie Jean shows us around their family home. Then we’ll visit with the mayor of Ferriday and others who remember Haney’s Big House, which burned down in 1966. Across the river in Natchez, MS, bluesman Hezekiah Early looks back on playing in Haney’s house band. Back down in New Orleans, we’ll talk with Treme Brass Band’s leader and snare drummer Benny Jones and bass drummer Joe Lastie about their late drummer and friend Uncle Lionel Batiste.
Celebrate epic moments in American music from the Newport Jazz and Folk Festivals—from Duke Ellington’s 1956 comeback to Bob Dylan’s 1965 electric revolution. Mark the 60th anniversary of the Jazz Festival with performances by Ray Charles, Mahalia Jackson, Louis Armstrong, and a visit from trumpet legend Clark Terry, who played with Ellington in ’56. Festival founder George Wein also joins us to share his memories, such as the founding of the Folk Festival in 1959 that featured blues, gospel, country, Cajun and more; and folk singer Joan Baez recalls her Newport experiences. Plus Newport performances from Doc Watson, John Lee Hooker and others.
Singer Mavis Staples grew up singing blues-inflected gospel with her family in Chicago, lead by her father Pops Staples’ distinctive voice and guitar style. Their sound transcended the local scene, translating the message of the Civil Rights movement into song. We’ll talk with Mavis about her 2010 release You Are Not Alone with Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy. Then, we’ll sit in while jazz songsmith Bob Dorough spins stories of the 1950s jazz world and takes us back to Schoolhouse Rock to share his thoughts on the magical properties of the number 3.
American Routes heralds the birthday of our nation’s greatest roving troubadour and social commentator, Woody Guthrie, with a two-hour special dedicated to his life in music. We’ll visit with friends and relatives who share tales of Guthrie’s trials and triumphs, from Okemah, Oklahoma to Coney Island, New York. Guthrie’s children, Nora and Arlo, reflect on their father’s life, scholar Guy Logsdon discusses Guthrie’s Dust Bowl days and Pete Seeger shares the backstory to Woody’s anthem for the “down and outers.” Plus music and memories from Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, Moses Asch, Bob Dylan and so many others.
This Independence Day, we’ll celebrate music of New Orleans, Mississippi & French Louisiana. Recorded live at New Orleans’ Civic Theatre, we’ll be joined by New Orleans clarinetist Dr. Michael White and the Original Liberty Jazz Band; fellow NEA Heritage recipient and Cajun fiddler Michael Doucet with his band BeauSoleil; the downhome blues of McComb, Mississippi’s Little Freddie King; and the spirit-filled gospel of Electrifying Crown Seekers from New Orleans’ West Bank. Our special guest is beloved jazz vocalist Topsy Chapman. Join us for a holiday edition of the new American Routes Live series.