American Routes

American Routes Shortcuts: CJ Chenier

Apr 13, 2018
CJ Chenier
American Routes

Accordionist CJ Chenier is the son of the late king of Zydeco, Clifton Chenier, who mixed R&B and soul into Louisiana Creole music. CJ was raised in Texas away from his French-speaking relatives. He played in jazz and funk bands, finally joining Clifton’s band and playing accordion a few years before the king passed in 1987. Like his father, CJ continues to push the boundaries of Creole music.

James "Chicken Scratch" Johnson
American Routes

Guitarist James “Chicken Scratch” Johnson grew up near Baton Rouge in Erwinville. When he was in elementary school, guitarist Albert Collins played a concert there. In that moment Johnson knew what he wanted to do. Years later, James joined with harmonica player Slim Harpo on beloved songs like “Raining in My Heart” and “Scratch My Back.” Nick Spitzer spoke with James Johnson the night before the 2016 Baton Rouge Blues Festival about playing with Slim Harpo and growing up in the country.

American Routes Shortcuts: Al Green

Mar 30, 2018
Al Green
American Routes

Al Green and his band, the Creations, including high school friends Curtis Rodgers and Palmer James, had their first hit in 1968. A year later, Green met up with Memphis producer Willie Mitchell, and the two went on to record hit after hit throughout the 1970s, including “Here I Am.” Green was born outside of Memphis in Forrest City, Arkansas, where he grew up close to the land.

American Routes Shortcuts: Little Freddie King

Mar 23, 2018
Little Freddie King
American Routes

Bluesman Little Freddie King hopped on a train from McComb, Mississippi, to New Orleans as a youth in the early 1950s. Over the years, he’s developed his own electric country-blues style. Life hasn’t always been easy for Freddie but he says he’s blessed with at least nine lives. 

American Routes Shortcuts: Margo Price

Mar 16, 2018
Margo Price
American Routes

Margo Price brings Midwestern working class credentials to country music. From Aledo, Illinois, Margo followed her uncle Bobby Fisher’s footsteps as a Nashville songwriter. While working odd jobs, Margo formed the Pricetags, who joined her on the 2016 debut album, “Midwest Farmer’s Daughter.” Price has always been outspoken about the rights of women and the working class, subjects she’s channeled into her music.

Sunny and the Sunliners
American Routes

In 1959, a group of San Antonio Chicano teenagers formed Sunny and the Sunliners, led by Sunny Ozuna. They called it the Highway 90 sound in reference to the stretch of asphalt connecting New Orleans to their hometown. Playing record hops, the Sunliners wore matching suits and pomaded hair like their R&B idols, but they crooned, sometimes in Spanish, with a distinctively Mexican-American take. The Sunliners took that Highway 90 sound all the way to American Bandstand, East LA, and the migrant Chicano communities nationwide. 

American Routes Shortcuts: Nick Spitzer

Mar 2, 2018
Nick Spitzer
Thom Bennett

This week on American Routes Shortcuts, the tables are turned as host Nick Spitzer appears as a guest on his own show, confessing his musical guilty pleasures to producer Betsy Shepherd and telling stories through his favorite songs.

Betsy Shepherd: When most people say guilty pleasures they’re referring to something they’re ashamed of, as in lowbrow entertainment. What do you mean by guilty pleasures?

Nick Spitzer: Well, there are a lot of things that I love musically out there in the world, but that doesn’t mean I play them on American Routes.

American Routes Shortcuts: Meschiya Lake

Feb 23, 2018
Meschiya Lake
American Routes

Meschiya Lake was named from Hebrew as “the anointed one.” Though Ms. Lake has yet to save the world, Meschiya has come a long way from Rapid City, South Dakota where at the age of nine she won a prize singing at a steakhouse. After high school, she hit the road and joined a traveling circus that later brought her to New Orleans in 2000. That’s where she leads her band, the Little Big Horns.

American Routes Shortcuts: Ben Jaffe

Feb 16, 2018
Ben Jaffe
American Routes

Ben Jaffe grew up in Preservation Hall, surrounded by jazz legends, immersed in the musical traditions his parents fought to preserve. He marched in Mardi Gras parades and jazz funerals, and toured the country with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, honing his chops as a bass and tuba player. 

American Routes Shortcuts: Monk Boudreaux

Feb 9, 2018
Monk Boudreaux
American Routes

Each year Mardi Gras Indians greet the day on the city streets to sing and strut. This has been going on since the late 19th century. The call and response sounds of the Indians often carry the Congo beat, fundamental in New Orleans' musical fabric. The beloved Indian chief Monk Boudreaux has been masking Indian for more than 70 years. We visited him at home where he quietly sewed his new suit.