Gwen Thompkins

Host of Music Inside Out

Gwen Thompkins is a New Orleans native, NPR veteran and host of WWNO's Music Inside Out, where she brings to bear the knowledge and experience she amassed as senior editor of Weekend Edition, an East Africa correspondent, the holder of Nieman and Watson Fellowships, and as a longtime student of music from around the world.

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Guests on this week's show.
Music Inside Out

In case you’re wondering — yes, this is a Best of Music Inside Out program. But the topic is universal. The songs we hear as children — even the ones we don’t like — help shape our feelings about the music we love as adults.

Nearly all of the guests who’ve appeared on Music Inside Out have talked about the songs they heard growing up. And those early songs and artists are partially responsible for the unique and varied musical landscape of Louisiana. What goes into little ears often helps build music careers. And, for that, we are grateful.

A.J. Croce
Shelby Duncan / Music Inside Out

It’s easy to tease out the artists who’ve inspired A.J. Croce’s singing over the years — Ray Charles, Paul McCartney*, Buddy Holly, even Ray Davies of The Kinks. He loves early rock n roll and R&B. So perhaps it’s ironic that A.J. rarely sounds like his father, singer-songwriter Jim Croce, who made his mark on music in the late 1960s and early 70s.

A paper edit of a Music Inside Out interview.
Music Inside Out

Over the years at MIO, we’ve heard from an enormous variety of artists… Vocalists, pianists, guitarists and brass; composers, songwriters and producers; jazzmen, opera singers and artists that defy category. But no matter the background, style or vocation, all of our artists have a lot of stories to tell… so many, in fact, that we can’t always fit them in a single hour!

This week on Music Inside Out, we’re bringing you those all those clips that were just too good to leave on the cutting room floor!

Forever young.
Music Inside Out

In case you’re wondering — yes, this is a Best of Music Inside Out program. But the topic is universal. The songs we hear as children — even the ones we don’t like — help shape our feelings about the music we love as adults.

Erica Falls.
Music Inside Out

She may have started 20 feet from stardom, but she’s gained a lot of ground in the meantime. Growing up in New Orleans’ 9th Ward, Erica Falls absorbed the sounds of everyone from Billy Eckstine and Ella Fitzgerald to the Sugar Hill Gang and the Ohio Players, to Roberta Flack and Steel Pulse.

Irma Thomas.
Rick Diamond / Music Inside Out

More than six billion people live on the planet, and yet relatively few human voices are recognizable to the naked ear.

Irma Thomas has one of those voices.

For more than 50 years, Thomas has written, recorded and lent her voice to some of the most precious songs that Louisiana has ever produced. Now music lovers all over the world know the contralto that she calls, “Irma’s sound.” This week, Music Inside Out with Gwen Thompkins makes way for the Queen of New Orleans Soul.

Keep it down, y’all. Miss Irma is speaking.

The Zion Harmonizers.
Zack Smith / Music Inside Out

They are rooted in the quartet singing tradition and a capella harmonies from the turn of the last century. For more than 40 years, The Zion Harmonizers enjoyed an unparalleled platform at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, anchoring and curating the Gospel Tent.

In the church of New Orleans jazz, they’ve had the keys to the church of church.

Thank goodness. It’s wonderful.

David Egan.
Denny Culbert

Our afternoon with David Egan at KRVS in Lafayette is one of my favorite afternoons, ever. Having listened to nearly all of what he’d written or recorded, I’d come from New Orleans with an iPod filled with Egan songs and a pile of questions.

Tom McDermott.
Gregg Goldman / Music Inside Out

The day we visited Tom McDermott’s home, the sound of James Booker’s “Classified” greeted us. It was a sweet gesture: walking into a man’s home to the sound of your radio show’s theme music.

McDermott knows how to communicate with a piano.

Blame it on Rio… and ragtime. McDermott has a piano playing style that smacks of sweet melodies, savory harmonies, and spicy Brazilian rhythm. And he serves up all three this hour. Pull up a chair, and enjoy.  

Carlos Miguel Prieto.
Peter Schaaf / Music Inside Out

  Carlos Miguel Prieto says he can’t dance and he’s no good at golf. Those may be the only pursuits that elude him. As a youngster, growing up in Mexico City, he wanted to play violin. So, he did. As a teenager, he wanted to become an engineer. So, he did. As a young man, he wanted to run a business. So, he did. And, in the 1990s, Prieto decided to give up industry and become a symphony conductor. So far, so good.

“I’ve been doing it for about 20 years now and I thought maybe at some point I’m not going to love it as much as I do now,” he told Gwen recently. “I still do.”

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