This week’s Deeper Roots pays tribute to a collection of country songwriters who made an impact on the American musical art form, defining the tone and story that was told. We’ll walk through nearly a hundred years of performances by the familiars: Emmylou Harris, Jim Reeves, Johnny Cash, and Ray Charles, all taking on the songs of A.P. Carter, Jimmie Rodgers, Merle Haggard, Hank Williams, and Cindy Walker. We’ll also hear from Dolly, Willie, and Elvis on a cold and wet January Friday in West Sonoma County. Join Dave Stroud as he enters his seventh year hosting our two hour show live from the Sebastopol studios of KOWS Community Radio.
Country swing is the thing this morning on Deeper Roots. We won’t be spending time on the ancestral roots as much as we’ll be exploring the small local bands of the Southwest. We’ll use Jean A. Boyd’s excellent reference “Dance All Night : Those Other Southwestern Swing Bands Past and Present” as our rudder and guidebook in the show. The heartbeat of any American genre is usually the local band and during the later years of the Great Depression and throughout the Second World War people were looking for something uplifting to dance to. In Texas (and really all across the Southwest) the sound was country swing: a mix of jazz, blues, polka, latin and hillbilly fiddle. We’ll be featuring the small time big names like The Tune Wranglers, Cliff Bruner, Leon Selph, Floyd Tillman, and Adolph Hofner and so many more in our show this morning, direct from our studios in downtown Sebastopol.
It’s a time that followed the second World War and baked into its foundation were the sounds of Hank Williams, Lefty Frizzell, Spade Cooley, Bob Wills among others. The music was inspired by bluegrass, folk, blues, and jazz with Country Swing and barn dances sparking a popularity that blanketed the American musical landscape from the Pacific to the southern Atlantic. It was a sound that solidified the title of “Country and Western” and he’ll be sharing some of the great performances in this week’s episode: Patsy Cline, Little Jimmy Dickens, George Jones, Ferlin Husky, and Webb Pierce…just to name a few. While the sound would fade away sometime around the turn of the seventies, when rock n’ roll would elbow it (more like steamroll it) out in popularity on the airwaves, it is revered and restated to this day as a cornerstone of what we recognize as Americana music.
There’s a new tribute album out, celebrating the music of country renaissance troubadour Roger Miller. Produced by his son Dean it’s a fully formed varietal that, as Rolling Stone magazine critic Stephen Betts notes, features a dazzling lineup after being beset by repeated delays since 2015. Miller was an extraordinary songwriter with offbeat humor, part Hank Williams, part Will Rogers, and a poet of the uncommon whose song King of the Road “was positively average compared to his other oddball compositions, including Dang Me, Chug-a-Lug, and You Can’t Rollerskate in a Buffalo Herd” as Betts goes on to point out. Our show features tracks from the album, some other notable covers of Roger Miller’s music, and, of course, some wacky, some tame originals from Roger himself.
A few years back we celebrated the record, the radio, and disc jockeys on a couple of themed shows. We’re going to rev that theme up once again, but with a bit of a twist. This morning’s show pays tribute to that nickel, dime, and quarter evaporator known as the jukebox. We’ll also extend the music selections to include sounds of record hops, soda fountains, and the healthiest way to partake in any or all of the festivities. Tune in for new and old, including country sounds from Kitty Wells, Buck Owens, and Bill Walker; R&B from Shirley & Lee, Charles Bronw, and The Marigolds; and pop straightaways from Gale Storm, Dodie Stevens, and Brook Benton. All this on a Friday evening on KWTF community radio.
This morning’s show finds a festive free form summer set featuring the usual suspects and a whole lot of fine sounds from the deeper wells. We’ll be sharing country classics from George Jones, Floyd Tillman, and Pee Wee King as well as some sweet upbeat R&B from Clyde McPhatter, Big Maybelle, and Ivory Joe. Taj Mahal, some doo wop pioneers, and the great Ella Fitzgerald will round things out in a free form fest on Sonoma County Community Radio. Tune in at 9am Pacific at www.kows.fm/listen.
Merle Travis’ influence on country music cannot be ignored. Along with a select few entertainers of the mid-century, he bridged the hillbilly and Appalachian folk institutions to the Golden Age of Country. His influences were not only the ‘picking style’, but also his keen sense of populist stories told from the front lines. We’ll hear from and early influence, Gid Tanner and His Skillet Lickers, as well as those he influenced. All songs written by Merle and some performed by Merle himself. Our show will also feature Merle Travis interview excerpts from the sixties. It’s a Friday morning collection of the very best of Merle Travis.
Tales of lonesome saddles, lost loves, broken hearts, and lonely rooms…a mood, a tone, and short vignettes so common among those themes of country music. We’ve got that and much more in this week’s episode of Deeper Roots. Performances from Grandpa Jones, The Stanley Brothers, Lefty Frizzell, Mel Tillis, and many others, will take us on a ride on a country road, drinking new wine from an old jug. That will also include stories of highway mishaps, the bottom of the bottle, and a mystery of the Tallahatchie Bridge. Friday solemn sounds from the past century on Sonoma County community radio.
Answer songs. A novelty of the music business that has always had a place but it truly exploded, becoming habit-forming with the advent of Top 30 radio in the fifties and sixties. Seldom was there an answer song that responded to a question that was not a big success. This week on Deeper Roots, it will be a ’round robin’ of ‘question followed by answer’ songs including the obscure (which about 99% of the so-called answer songs were). You’ll be treated to the sounds of Tennessee Ernie Ford, Muddy Waters, Rufus Thomas, Dodie Stevens, and Elvis (of course) on a summer Friday in West Sonoma County.
The devil is, indeed, an angel…albeit a fallen one. And the music we’ll be sharing this morning with our West County audience will take note of that fact with sounds that feature modern Americana as well as early to mid-century country sounds. Tune in to KOWS radio every Friday morning at 9 Pacific for the very best in roots sounds…and this week is no different: modern Americana from Rob Ickes and The Devil Makes Three, mid-century country from Cowboy Copas and Lefty Frizzell, as well as some wild-eyed worship pieces from The Sunshine Boys, Benny Joy, and Margie Singleton (who performs the infamous “Jesus is My Pusher”). Just for you. Just in time for a springtime April morning.