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A Tour of the Nation's Music:
American Roots Music Goes on the Road

After more than a year collecting hundreds of pieces of archival footage and crafting the extensive treatment for the 4-part series, production on finally began, taking the American Roots Music crew all over the country for a year and a half...

Mardi Gras 2000
Mardi Gras 2000

March 2000

Southwest Louisiana
The very first shoot brought the American Roots Music crew to Eunice, Louisiana to film the traditional Cajun celebrations centered around Mardi Gras. The team filmed an early morning Mardi Gras trail ride, a lively jam session at the Savoy Music Center as well as a performance by Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys at Whiskey River Landing that had audience members dancing on the bar. Extensive interviews with Marc and Ann Savoy and Steve Riley were also filmed (Episode Four).

Dover, New Jersey
Back near home base, in the New York metropolitan area, the American Roots Music crew shot at a historic recording session with legendary blues guitarist Hubert Sumlin in New Jersey. Sumlin is best known for playing with the bands of both Howlin Wolf and Muddy Waters (Episode Three).

Putnam Valley, NY
The American Roots Music team filmed an extensive interview with folk music legend Pete Seeger as well as founding member of the New Lost City Ramblers, John Cohen (Episodes One, Two, Three and Four).

May 2000

The Delta
Venturing back down South, the American Roots Music team traveled to the Mississippi Delta to collect footage that would tell the story of Delta Blues. Across the Mississippi River in Helena, Arkansas, the crew found Sonny Payne, DJ of the longest running daily radio show, KFFA's King Biscuit Time. The program began with hosts Sonny Boy Williamson and Robert Lockwood Jr. in the 40's and was the first to broadcast black music in the Delta (Episode Two).

Memphis
Driving north from the Delta, the American Roots Music team went to Memphis for interviews with three music legends: Sam Phillips, Rufus Thomas and James Cotton (Episodes One, Two and Three).


James Cotton and Robert Lockwood Jr.
Filming a session with Robert Lockwood Jr. and James Cotton

B. B. King's Homecoming concert.
B. B. King's Homecoming concert

June 2000

Back in the Delta
The American Roots Music team returned to the Mississippi Delta to film a session with Robert Lockwood Jr. and James Cotton with Sam Carr on drums (Episode Two). Then it was off to Indianola, Mississippi where B.B. King was performing his annual Homecoming concert for the residents of his hometown (Episode Three).

Oxford, Virginia
The American Roots Music team drove down to Southern Virginia to interview legendary musician and folklorist Mike Seeger at his home.

July 2000

Washington, DC
Driving up from southern Virginia, the American Roots Music crew visited the annual Smithsonian Festival of American Folklife on the Mall in Washington, DC.

Uncle Dave Macon Days
In the intense heat of Tennessee in July, the American Roots Music crew filmed Uncle Dave Macon Days, the annual three-day festival honoring country music's first entertainer, Uncle Dave Macon in Murfreesboro, Tennessee (Episodes One and Four).

Nashville
From Murfreesboro, the American Roots Music team drove over to Nashville for interviews with Marty Stuart, Gordon Stoker of the Jordanaires and Doc Watson (Episodes One, Two and Three). The crew also filmed an outstanding performance by Doc Watson and his sideman Jack Lawrence at a recording studio in Franklin, Tennessee (Episodes One and Three).

The American Roots Music film Tejano bands in Texas.
The American Roots Music film Tejano bands in Texas

Tejano
The American Roots Music crew flew from Nashville to San Antonio, Texas to film four of the legends of Tejano music. First, they captured a lively concert by Mingo Saldivar at the "Conjunto Shootout" in Market Square. From San Antonio, the team drove up to the historic area of Gruene, Texas to film a historic session with the bands of Saldivar, the late Valerio Longoria and Little Joe y la Famillia. The day long shoot took place at Gruene Hall - the oldest dance hall in Texas. The following day another session was filmed at Gruene Hall with perhaps the best known Tejano accordionist, Flaco Jimenez (Episode Four).

Austin, Texas
After the Tejano shoot, the crew drove north to Austin to interview Asleep at the Wheel front man Ray Benson about Bob Wills and western swing (Episode Two).

August 2000

New Orleans
In early August, the American Roots Music crew flew to New Orleans for the annual meeting of the National Convention of Gospel Choirs and Choruses. For three days, key members of the Convention were interviewed, including performer Edwin Hawkins and the head of the organization, Bishop Kenneth Moales. The amazing Mass Choir was also filmed in their concert concluding the weeklong convention, which included an inspiring performance with Edwin Hawkins of his crossover hit "Oh Happy Day" (Episodes One and Four).

Powwows
Also in August, the American Roots Music team visited powwows on two reservations in the Midwest: the Lakota Reservation in Kyle, South Dakota and the Omaha Reservation in Macy, Nebraska. Wonderful footage of these ceremonies and interviews with many key participants captures the surviving traditions of America's first musical forms (Episode Four).

October 2000

Tennessee Fall Homecoming
The American Roots Music team traveled to Norris, Tennessee - just north of Knoxville - to film two legends of bluegrass music at the annual Tennessee Fall Homecoming. This four day festival takes place each October at John Rice Irwin's Museum of Appalachia. In 2000, both Ralph Stanley and Earl Scruggs were slated to perform. The crew filmed both musicians' entire performances and also extensive interviews with each (Episodes Two and Four).

Nashville
From Knoxville, the American Roots Music crew drove over to Nashville to interview Queen of Country Music, Kitty Wells at her home. They also filmed a session with Bela Fleck and the Flecktones at SIR performing their song "Stomping Grounds." While in Nashville, the team met up with Ricky Skaggs and conducted the first of two extensive interviews with this country music star at his recording studio in Hendersonville (Episodes One, Two, Three and Four).

Arizona
From Nashville, the American Roots Music crew flew to Phoenix, Arizona to meet up with B.B. King on tour for an interview on his bus (Episodes Two and Three). Then they drove to Sedona for a scenic shoot with Native American flautist R. Carlos Nakai (Episode Four).

November 2000

Bar Harbor, Maine
To fulfill director Jim Brown's vision of the opening shot of American Roots Music, the team went to Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, Maine. The crew ventured out onto the rocks jutting into the Atlantic with a jib arm for the camera in order to capture a sweeping shot of the American shore as seen from many of the earliest immigrants to this country (Episode One). On the way to Maine, the crew also stopped in with John Sebastian for an interview at his home in Woodstock, NY.

New York City
The day after Thanksgiving, Peter Yarrow was gracious enough to give the American Roots Music crew an interview at his apartment in Manhattan.

December 2000

Chicago
The American Roots Music team flew to the Windy City to collect footage to tell the story of Urban Blues. They filmed a performance at Rooster Blues that brought harmonica player Billy Branch together with blues legends Pinetop Perkins, Willie "Big Eye" Smith and John Primer. Interviews with Buddy Guy and Koko Taylor were also shot (Episodes Two, Three and Four).


Keb Mo' interview
Jim interviews Keb Mo'

January 2001

Nashville
At the beginning of the new year, the American Roots Music team returned to Nashville to film contemporary blues artist Keb' Mo' performing at the Ryman Auditorium (Episodes One, Two and Three). While in town, they also filmed interviews with Grand Ole Opry announcer Kyle Cantrell (Episodes One and Two), singer/songwriter Steve Earle (Episode Four), Douglas Green of Riders in the Sky (Episode Two), and bluegrass bandleader Doyle Lawson who performed for the cameras with his band Quicksilver (Episode One). Also while in Nashville, the crew visited Fisk University and interviewed several past and present members of the Fisk Jubilee Singers (Episode One).

Newark, New Jersey
After a quick drive from New York City, the American Roots Music interviewed gospel legend Cissy Houston at the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark.

February 2001

Los Angeles
The American Roots Music team traveled to Los Angeles to interview Bonnie Raitt (Episodes One, Two and Three).

April 2001

Somewhere in Pennsylvania
Still shooting after more than one year, the American Roots Music crew drove out to Pennsylvania to interview Willie Nelson on his tour bus before a concert (Episode Two).

Stockbridge, Massachusetts
On another day in April, the American Roots Music team drove up to the Berkshires in Massachusetts for an extensive interview with Arlo Guthrie.

May 2001

Nashville
The American Roots Music crew returned to Nashville once again to interview Ricky Skaggs for a second time at his recording studio in Hendersonville (Episodes One - Four). On the same day, a session was filmed with father-daughters trio The Whites at their church near Skaggs' studio. In addition to being interviewed, they performed the Carter Family classic, "Keep on the Sunny Side" (Episode One). While in town, the crew also interviewed Lead Belly's niece Tiny Robinson at her home (Episode Two).

June 2001

Northern California
In June, the American Roots Music crew flew out to Northern California to meet up with Merle Haggard at his home for an extensive interview and acoustic session (Episodes One and Two).

Los Angeles
From Northern California, the crew flew to Los Angeles for interviews with Robbie Robertson (Episodes One, Three and Four) and Floyd Westerman (Episode Four).

Taos, New Mexico
From Los Angeles, the American Roots Music team flew to Taos to interview contemporary Native American musician Robert Mirabal on the Taos Pueblo (Episodes One and Four).

July 2001

Hendersonville, Tennessee
The crew flew to the Nashville area one last time to film a historic recording session that would generate the theme music for American Roots Music. Ricky Skaggs hosted the session at his studio and was joined by legendary musicians Earl Scruggs, James Cotton and Marc and Ann Savoy. The result of this collaboration can be found at the beginning of each episode and in scenes in Episode Four.

Chicago
In mid-July, the American Roots Music team flew to Chicago again to interview Mavis Staples (Episodes One and Three) and Studs Terkel (Episode Two).

Hillsdale, NY
The American Roots Music crew drove to the annual Falcon Ridge Folk Festival in Hillsdale, NY to catch up with contemporary traditional country performer Gillian Welch (Episodes One and Four).

August 2001

Los Angeles
With production basically finished, the American Roots Music team flew out to Los Angeles to record the narrator of the four-part series: Kris Kristofferson.

New York City
For the very last shoot, the American Roots Music team filmed an interview with Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards at their home base in New York City (Episodes One and Three).

 

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