This week’s Deeper Roots show revisits country swing. Join Dave Stroud tonight at 9 for the sounds of Tex Williams, The Sons of the West, Spade Cooley, Hank Penney, and a host of others whose sounds attracted huge crowds to the dance halls and clubs in Texas, Oklahoma, and California during the thirties and forties. With its basis in jazz and ‘gypsy jazz’, its sound is an upbeat amalgamation of rural, cowboy, polka, folk, blues, and Dixieland jazz, all played by the hot string bands who gave it a distinctive sound with amplified steel guitars, stand-up bass, fiddle, as well as an occasional accordion or brass accompaniment. It’s still alive today…you just need to look.
You’ve heard his music and his story is bigger than life. Jerome Felder was raised in Brooklyn to a middle class Jewish family and contracted polio at a very young age. But he also contracted a taste for the blues as an adolescent and did more than make his mark on the American musical fabric of the mid-to-late century. He adopted the stage name of Doc Pomus and, along with Lieber, Stoller, King, and a few others defined the lyric and tone of a generation. Deeper Roots explores the music of Doc Pomus this Friday night at 9 on KWTF. We’ll hear Big Joe Turner’s Piney Brown Blues, a song that inspired him as well as a couple of pieces that he would eventually write for Joe when he was recording in the Atlantic stable. We’ll share the stories and music, including performances by Doc himself, The Coasters, Elvis, Dr. John, and Ray Charles.
Deeper Roots: A Century of America’s Music shares the music from a selection of the great 20th century country guitar masters…those Nashville Cats in our latest episode.
The electric guitar has been around in some form since the late 1920’s. In fact, an early group named The Vagabonds experimented with guitar amplification on the Grand Ole Opry in the early days of the show. But the first real amplified guitars were steel guitars. In 1936, Gibson introduced their ES-150 electric guitars and while most southeastern country musicians rejected them, Western swing bands coming out of the Southwest were quick to adopt and the sound became a standard. The sounds of the steel guitar went well beyond swing since the lap and pedal steel guitars both became associated with the development of the country and Western swing genres.
In tonight’s show, we’ve got a mix of session men and solid guitar impresarios to share with you. We’ll hear from The Delmore Brothers, Bob Wills and Leon McAuliffe, Merle Travis, Buddy Emmons, and the great Hank Garland…”setting the woods on fire” as the saying goes.
This episode has us belly up to the bar, exploring music that’s all about bad habits and those elements that are not very good for health and harmony…and the performers make that very clear. We’ll hear “It Ain’t Far To the Bar”, “Caffeine and Nicotine”, “Wacky Dust”, and a host of other songs that tell the story of misbehavior, anti-sobriety, barrooms, and dens of iniquity. We’ll hear happy, we’ll hear sad, and we’ll hear all those emotions in between…all from performers like Merle Haggard, Victoria Spivey, Johnny Tyler & His Riders of the Rio Grande…and so many others.
The story and tradition of the music of the Appalachians can be traced back to Scottish and English ancestral roots. The book “Tennessee Strings” by Charles Wolfe does a good job of finding the path from traditional ballads such as Barbara Allen and those of Lorena during the Civil War into the present day. It also traces a clear path from the early 20th century performers like Fiddlin’ John Carson to the sounds of Uncle Dave Macon and the early years of the Grand Ole Opry.
In this episode of Deeper Roots, we acknowledge the contributions of Tennessee to the country Americana art form, that drew both from sources in the white rural music of East and Middle Tennessee as well as from the church music of the singing congregations and the blues and jazz emanating from urban Memphis. With the commercialization of this musical fusion through radio and recordings, Tennessee soon became a national center for country music.
Featured performers include G. B. Grayson, Al Hopkins and His Buckle Busters, Uncle Dave Macon, and a couple of sets that feature the songs about Tennessee. We’ll hear about Nashville before it became the center of commercialism that it is today, the 1927 Bristol Sessions, and the Grand Ole Opry when it only resembled a dance hall social with WSM radio microphones held in an insurance building’s gathering hall. We’ll also hear a number of pieces celebrating the state of Tennessee.
Our theme in this week’s episode of Deeper Roots: Black Pearls, a story of the Blues Queens of the Twenties. We’ll hear the music that, throughout the 1920s, could be heard in the tents, theaters, dance halls and cabarets, and on “race” records where Black American women captivated large audiences with their singing of the blues, many paying the toll for their right to be heard, transforming a folk tradition into a popular art.
Based on research from the book of the same name by Daphne Duval Harrison, we’ll hear Trixie Smith, Alberta Hunter, Ida Cox, Victoria Spivey, Sippie Wallace, and of course, Bessie Smith as they perform music that tell their story: gutsy, yet tender, exploited, but not resentful, independent, yet vulnerable. They introduced a new model of the black woman for the times and their work profoundly affected the American popular music art form.
We’ll be remembering Woodrow Wilson “Woody” Guthrie (July 14, 1912 – October 3, 1967). Deeper Roots: A Century Of America’s Music host Dave Stroud visits the many different songs performed by Woody, his contemporaries, and some of the artists he influenced. In addition, we’ll hear excerpts from the Library of Congress interview where Alan Lomax asks Woody to share some of his personal stories and Woody makes the best of it.
From the Oklahoma Hills where he was born to the Great Northwest where he composed songs for the Columbia River project and into the heart of New York City, Woody spoke for those who would not be heard and railed against injustices that would not be spoken of out of fear. We’ll hear from Bruce Springsteen, The Byrds, Arlo Guthrie, and Billy Bragg (to name a few).
Our theme in this week’s episode of Deeper Roots…American Songwriters. Deeper Roots explores selections from some of the great American songwriters and a variety of interpretations by a host of performers. We’ll hear the music of Stephen Foster, Willie Nelson, Thomas Dorsey, and Johnny Cash from the likes of Bob Dylan, Jimmy Lunceford, and Sweet Honey In the Rock. Of course, two hours will only scratch the surface…
We’re going to take another Deeper Roots journey exploring the many facets of the vocal group genre; from the jubilee quartets of the early century and jazz stylings that blossomed from the churches and into the mainstream. This episode takes off by highlighting groups like the Harmony Four, The Golden Gate Quartet, and the Norfolk Jubilee Quartet. We then explore a number of the inheritors of the sound in the more consumable refinements of mid-century pop vocal groups like The Mills Brothers, The Selah Singers, and The Ravens. Things will wrap up with a flavor of some of the early street corner doo wop and R&B performers like The Five Royales and The Orioles. Lots to cover, so little time…
Released in 1970, Bob Dylan’s double album “Self Portrait” was lambasted by the critics and by most of his fans. Although it was a seemingly natural progression between “Nashville Skyline” and “New Morning”, it lacked original material and seemed to be propping itself against traditional and popular country covers sung in the affected crooning voice that Dylan had introduced in Nashville Skyline. It has been re-released this past year by Columbia in a package called “Another Self Portrait” and features studio tracks not heard before offering unembellished productions that help to uncover what might have been a wholly different album…in the hands of another producer. Even Greil Marcus, the critic who originally wrote in his review of the album “What is this s***?” entertains another look.