American Routes

Saturdays at 7 p.m. and Sundays at 6 p.m.
  • Hosted by Nick Spitzer

American Routes is a two-hour weekly excursion into American music, spanning eras and genres—roots rock and soul, blues and country, jazz, gospel and beyond.

American Routes Shortcuts: Charles Neville

Sep 29, 2017
Charles Neville with the Jazzmen at Angola Prison
Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities

This week on American Routes Shortcuts, saxophonist Charles Neville shares about his time at Angola Prison in the '60s. He was among many great musicians who were sent to the penitentiary for drug offenses. One of his great contributions as an inmate was helping to racially and musically integrate prison life. Charles helped form the unlikely but prolific bebop group, the Nic Nacs, and found solace in the music he encountered while at Angola.

In this special program, we visit Angola, the notorious plantation-turned-penitentiary, to hear stories and songs from within the prison’s walls. We talk with saxophonist Charles Neville about serving time at the “Farm” during the Jim Crow era, playing with fellow inmates in the Nic Nacs, and the role of music in integrating prison life. We hear previously unreleased Harry Oster field recordings of Mardi Gras Indian chants and bebop jazz from Angola in the late-50s.

American Routes Shortcuts: Tito Puente

Sep 22, 2017
Tito Puente
American Routes

This week on American Routes Shortcuts, we hear the mambo and rumba sounds of the late Puerto Rican percussionist, Tito Puente. Tito was born in New York City in 1923. After a youth of dancing, playing drums, and hearing Cuban musical influences, his great break came when he joined Machito’s big band as a teenager in the early 40s. He formed his own band a few years later, and literally brought his instrument, the timbales, to the foreground by moving them from the back to the front of the stage.

Latin Tinge

Sep 19, 2017

For National Hispanic Heritage Month, we’re celebrating the “Latin tinge” in American music.  We’ll hear a classic interview with the late nuyorican bandleader and King of the Timbales, Tito Puente, who tells us about the roots of tropical Latin jazz in Spanish Harlem. Then, it’s off to the West Coast, where we visit the Los Angeles club of the late, great bandleader Nati Cano. As leader of Mariachi Los Camperos, Nati Cano was a central figure in the Mexican Mariachi scene of East LA.

American Routes Shortcuts: Candi Staton

Sep 15, 2017
Candi Staton
American Routes

This week on American Routes Shortcuts, we hear from Candi Staton who has been working in music for over four decades. From her Christian upbringing to the Chitlin’ Circuit, from making records in Muscle Shoals to disco, her path hasn’t always been easy. One of her earliest memories was making a pillow out of a cotton sack and falling asleep as her father worked the field. 

Rock and Soul from Memphis to Muscle Shoals

Sep 12, 2017

We road-trip to the fertile crescent of rock and soul with Barbara Sims, Sun Studios publicist and promoter, as she tells of her search for the next Elvis. We hightail it to North Alabama for a conversation on love, God and music with soul and disco siren Candi Staton. 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.

American Routes Shortcuts: Sonny Burgess

Sep 8, 2017
Sonny Burgess
American Routes

This week on American Routes Shortcuts, we revisit an interview with the late Sonny Burgess. Sonny grew up in Newport, Arkansas, and was part of the first generation of white musicians to mix country or hillbilly music with the blues to make a new sound: rockabilly. Burgess quit farming to play music in local clubs and became known for his wild stage antics. Sonny fronted bands like the Moonlighters and the King’s Four, and recorded at Sun Records with his band, the Pacers, in 1956.

Rockin' the Blues

Sep 5, 2017

Tune in and rock the blues with two guitar men who do it with great authority. First up is Arkansas wild man and original Sun Records rockabilly Sonny Burgess who tore it up, playing his hits "We Wanna Boogie," "Red-Headed Woman" and others well into his eighties, before passing away last month. And hear a live set from the late great New Orleans bluesman and human jukebox Snooks Eaglin , recorded in 2007 at his home base, the famous Rock ‘N’ Bowl nightclub, where one can do either of those, or both, at the same time.

American Routes Shortcuts: Bill Kirchen

Sep 1, 2017
Bill Kirchen
American Routes

This week on American Routes Shortcuts, we visit with Titan of the Telecaster, Bill Kirchen, of Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen. The father of "dieselbilly," Kirchen helped Commander Cody take their hippie, honky-tonk satire up to the Top 10 with the 1972 hit “Hot Rod Lincoln.” Though he’s long been flying solo, Kirchen stuck with the automotive theme and high-octane sound. We spoke to Bill back in 2010 about his musical journey.

For Labor Day weekend …it’s Roots Rock & Soul, Jazz & the Working Man’s Blues. Summer’s end is in sight, but we get a little break from the grind ’cause blue Monday is at least another week away. Today we honor working folks with songs about coal miners, factory girls, a Labor Day carnival, and payday.  Plus … a live rockabilly show in New Orleans with guitarist Bill Kirchen.