We celebrate the songmaker, piano “professor” and producer from New Orleans who passed away suddenly in November 2015. A beloved Creole gentleman, Allen Toussaint was a hometown hero and giant on the American music scene. He wrote over 800 songs and produced regional and national hit records such as “Java” (Al Hirt), “Mother-in-Law” (Ernie K-Doe), “I Like it Like That” (Chris Kenner), “It’s Raining” (Irma Thomas), “Yes We Can” (Lee Dorsey) among others. Toussaint worked closely with the Meters, Neville Brothers, Dr. John, Paul McCartney and Elvis Costello. He is in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame and received the National Medal of Arts. Allen Toussaint’s famed autobiographical song is “Southern Nights.”
For this Thanksgiving weekend special, we serve up a heaping course of sonic delights and give thanks to the artists and artisans keeping American roots cultures alive. Every year since 1982 the National Endowment for the Arts has presented Heritage fellowships — America’s highest honor in “folk & traditional arts.” We hear music from past award recipients including swamp boogie chanteuse Carol Fran and bluegrass crooner Del McCoury. And we go live to the 2017 NEA Heritage concert for songs and stories from Puerto Rican percussionist Modesto Cepeda, Hawaiian slack-key guitarist Cyril Pahinui, conjunto accordionist Eva Ybarra, Appalachian buckdancer Thomas Maupin, Danish accordionist Dwight Lamb, Piedmont blues harp player Phil Wiggins, folk music teacher Ella Jenkins, Alaskan weaver Anna Brown Ehlers and Armenian metalworker Norik Astvatsaturov.
You can find out more about the 2017 NEA National Heritage Fellowships here.
This week we are visited by two men with legendary voices, in country and soul, famous for their duets and more. First, we revisit our interview with the late George Jones. From the cotton patches of East Texas, Jones was one of the most distinctive voices in the history of country music. Known as “the King of Broken Hearts,” his hits through the ’60s and ’70s remain the high-water mark for country ballads. Sam Moore, formerly of Sam & Dave, recalls his early days as a gospel singer in Miami and his conversion to pop. As a sixties “Soul Man” he recorded a string of jukebox classics then pressed through difficult times and has emerged with a second career on his own.
We pay tribute to the late Fats Domino with our favorite of the New Orleans piano man’s Imperial releases. And we hear the Fat Man’s reflective side in a rare 2007 conversation with him about escaping Hurricane Katrina’s floodwaters and how his faith saw him through. Veteran blues harp player Billy Boy Arnold tells of South Side Chicago’s early rhythm & blues scene, recording with Bo Diddley, and Fats Domino’s role in pushing black music across the color line into what would become rock & roll. Then, we catch up with a new generation of rockers, the Tedeschi Trucks Band, known for their live shows of Southern soul-inflected roots rock. We chat with Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks (Allman Brothers) about their solo careers, starting a family and a band, and life on the road together. Plus, hard-hitting R&B from Junior Parker, mighty gospel from Mahalia, and rockin’ soul from Mad Dogs and Englishmen.
Explore the connection between the wail of the cantor and the slide of a blues note— where jazz and western swing meet the klezmorium. Legendary R&B producer Jerry Wexler recalls working with Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan and more. Banjo player, and author Henry Sapoznik talks about going from Old Time Country back to the music of his roots, klezmer. Plus jazz-inflected western swing, swinging klezmer and more.