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.

Ways to Connect

Dr. Michael White
Derek Bridges

What do you hear when he plays his clarinet?

Can you hear the bayou? The river? The French Quarter? People sitting on their stoops waiting for someone to deliver the news? Penny parties?

That’s not a clarinet in the doctor’s hands; it’s a time machine.

“I listened to Johnny Dodds’ recordings. I listened to Sidney Bechet. I listened to George Lewis. I listened to Edmond Hall. I listened to Omer Simeon, Barney Bigard, and so many others. And you listen to that and you say, ‘Wow, I would like to capture that feeling.'”

Tomi Lunsford and Gwen Thompkins at Tomi's home in Nashville, TN
Jason Rhein

Like so many other musicians who have made a home in Nashville, singer Tomi Lunsford has spent her life immersed in country music. A native of Asheville, NC, she played in a family band from a young age. Her father, Jim Lunsford, was a journeyman fiddler who played with superstars of classic country and bluegrass such as Roy Acuff, Jim and Jesse McReynolds, Reno and Smiley, Bob Wills, and Marty Robbins. Her great-uncle, Bascom Lamar Lunsford, was a lawyer and famed collector of folk songs from the mountains of North Carolina.

At first, there wasn’t a name for the kind of music that Fats Domino played.

He called it rhythm and blues. But Domino’s songs stretched beyond that category.

In the late 1940s, Domino was working at a mattress factory in New Orleans and playing piano at night. He’d just gotten married … and both his waistline and fan base were expanding. That’s when the bandleader Billy Diamond first called him “Fats” — and predicted he’d have an outsized career.

The Floating World is an ambitious novel set in Louisiana immediately before, during and after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 — a family drama unfolding in the wreckage of breached levees, storm surge and plain old wind and rain. Nearly all of humanity saw the calamity play out in wide focus on the news back then. No story was bigger, or smellier, or more unsanitary or frightening. But author C. Morgan Babst goes small — training her focus on a single New Orleans family and its limited cast of friends, lovers and acquaintances.

Despite the throngs of tourists and ever-growing parade of festivals, New Orleans’ nightlife can be surprisingly intimate. The corner bar is often the anchor of a neighborhood’s social life, where friends, strangers, and familiar faces can share drinks, stories, dreams, and failures.

Marcia Ball
Lilly M

Few piano players are as tall, glam and terrific as Marcia Ball. Born in Texas, raised in Louisiana and schooled in the dance halls and roadhouses of the Gulf South, Ball can't help but make you boogie woogie. That is, unless you wanna two-step. Or boogaloo. She does that too.

Ball's songs are postcards of small town life in this region and the dilemmas that drive people to the choices they make... And over the years, she's written a LOT of postcards. Since 1972, she's released 17 albums, the most recent being the Tattooed Lady and the Alligator Man in 2014.

Big Freedia: Booty Ambassador
www.bigfreedia.com

Big Freedia, the Queen Diva of Bounce, has done more than any other artist to bring the unmistakable New Orleans hip-hop sound to the world. His output is as unrelenting as the bounce beat, with singles, EPs, videos, all-star collaborations, LGBTQ rights advocacy, and a reality television show now entering its sixth season.

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!

Gwen Thompkins and Tomi Lunsford at Tomi's home in Nashville
Jason Rhein

Like so many other musicians who have made a home in Nashville, singer Tomi Lunsford has spent her life immersed in country music. A native of Asheville, NC, she played in a family band from a young age. Her father, Jim Lunsford, was a journeyman fiddler who played with superstars of classic country and bluegrass such as Roy Acuff, Jim and Jesse McReynolds, Reno and Smiley, Bob Wills, and Marty Robbins. Her great-uncle, Bascom Lamar Lunsford, was a lawyer and famed collector of folk songs from the mountains of North Carolina. 

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