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Celebrate this 4th of July with a great American hero. Ray Charles’ unique vision blended the best of jazz and R&B, gospel and soul, country and pop into distinctive music that forever changed the American soundscape. This two hour American Routes special includes our exclusive interviews with Ray and those closest to him, tracing the radiant arc of his life and music. Voices include: Atlantic Records producer Jerry Wexler; saxophonist and bandleader, David “Fathead” Newman; singer and Raelette Mable John; Ray’s chauffeur and assistant of more than forty years Vernon Troupe; his ex-wife and confidante Della Bea Robinson; and producer-engineer Terry Howard. Hear Ray’s classics and the stories behind them, as well as his songs by Elvis, Percy Mayfield, Willie Nelson and others.


Join us for the sounds and stories of estranged country singer and songwriter Robbie Fulks. And R&B vixen Bettye LaVette takes us from the Motor City to Muscle Shoals, and Beale Street to Bourbon Street, as she recounts nearly 50 years of singing R&B.


On our Father’s Day show we’ll talk with musical fathers & sons: polka kings Eddie Blazonczyk Jr. & Sr., and blues greats Tabby Thomas & Chris Thomas King. Also music for daddy-o’s by Horace Silver, Johnny Cash, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Gene Austin and Regina Carter.


Meet two men of great musical distinction—New Orleans songman and piano player Allen Toussaint and his longtime fan and current collaborator Elvis Costello—who tell us about recording in post-Katrina New Orleans. Plus a tour of some famous New Orleans restaurants by none other than Nikki Silva and Davia Nelson, better known as the Kitchen Sisters. The pair take us to two kitchens of two sisters, apiece—that makes six in all.