We talk to three soul singers from the formative era of the mid 1950s through Motown of the late 60s, and an all-female New Orleans brass band. Justine “Baby” Washington talks about growing up in Harlem and her hits such as “That’s How Heartaches Are Made.” Maxine Brown started as teenager in NYC singing with gospel groups. By 1960 she penned the hit, “All in My Mind,” and would later have hits with “Oh No Not My Baby” and a duet with Chuck Jackson on “Something You Got.” Chris Clark is a rare white soul singer who recorded for Detroit’s Motown Records. Finally, the Original Pinettes Brass Band is a young, ten-member, all-women’s New Orleans jazz band who have received major recognition in a field dominated by men.
This week on American Routes, we talk to Barbara Sims about her time working at Sun Studios as a publicist and promoter, and the search for the next Elvis. Then we dig into the archives for classic interviews with Sun’s founder Sam Phillips, Elvis’ sidemen DJ Fontana and Scotty Moore and the Killer, Jerry Lee Lewis. Then we head over to North Alabama for a conversation on love, God and music with soul and disco siren Candi Staton.
While they don’t all have blue-eyes, the white soul and swamp pop guys and gals from Philadelphia and South Louisiana have created distinctive regional sounds of national significance. In Philadelphia, we sample soul roots of the famed band Hall & Oates; and learn from John Oates that — despite years of pop music, big hair and synthesizers— at heart he is also a folkie into country blues and flat-picked guitar a la Doc Watson and Mississippi John Hurt… which he plays live for us! The angelic-voiced Daryl Hall, on the other hand is more disciple of the Temptations who we’ll hear along with the Orlons, The O’Jays and Sister Rosetta Tharpe. In south Louisiana the simmering pot of music that draws on Cajun, R&B, soul and country ends up as a tasty dish called Swamp Pop. Johnnie Allan (Guillot) is a Cajun Swamp Pop chef extraordinaire with hits like “South to Louisiana” and a version of the “Promised Land” played on the French accordion. He’s surrounded by music from Earl King, Cookie & the Cupcakes, and Slim Harpo. Tasty indeed!
For our annual pre-Lenten bacchanal, we bring you classic Mardi Gras songs from the Crescent City and beyond. We start out at home, where New Orleans’ own Monk Boudreaux walks us through the sites and sounds of Mardi Gras Day. We travel to Nice, France – grand city on the Cote d’Azure – and the vintners village of Limoux , where free glasses of blanchette are never empty. We continue our journey in Coney Island NY , where we hear of carnivalesque revelry at America’s great amusement park by the sea and walk with the fishes in the Mermaid Parade.
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