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Find the connections between the literary landscape and soundscape. We talk with Columbia University jazz scholar Robert O’Meally about the music writings of Ralph Ellison, the Harlem Renaissance author best known for the novel Invisible Man. And visit with songsmith and wordsmith James Talley.


From Pretty Polly and Poor Ellen Smith to Lil’ Liza Jane and Old Joe Clark, this American Routes deals with the nomenclature of music. We’ll chat with a man many of you might know, and learn what it’s like to grow up as John Smith. Plus, the San Antonio native and leader of the barnstorming 1950’s band Mando & the Chili Peppers tells us how he took a turn from Tejano music to rock n’ roll and ended up in Las Vegas with a stage name that stuck. And learn more about Jody, that shadowy figure that’s got your girl and gone.


At last some good luck with the Irish! For St. Patrick’s Day we’ll explore Celtic influences in American music and vice-versa. With music from Bing Crosby, Rufus Harley, Natalie MacMaster, Van Morrison and Louis Armstrong. Fiona Ritchie of Thistle & Shamrock makes a cameo appearance as do Tiny Grimes and the Rockin’ Highlanders.


Head to New York City with American Routes as we search out the beat of the boroughs. Sit in with Seleno Clarke as he hosts a Sunday night Hammond B-3 organ jam at the Harlem American Legion Hall. Pick and grin downtown in Washington Square Park as country comes to the city for a reunion of bluegrass musicians from the 1950s and ’60s. Then it’s up to the South Bronx to trace Latin music from Mambo to Hip-Hop. Plus music from and about the city from John Coltrane, Bob Dylan and other musicians that called New York home.


The sound of rock continues to dominate the musical spirit of America. Loud and anthemic, many artists eventually come to and pass through rock n’ roll from country, folk, R&B, even gospel. American Routes takes a look at three roots musicians who rock: Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna veteran Jorma Kaukonen talks about his recent acoustic work; Texas trio the Flatlanders (Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Butch Hancock and Joe Ely) strum a few tunes in the studio; and New Orleans’ own Lloyd Price shows how his R&B roots helped give birth to rock n’ roll.