The Mississippi: River of Song radio programs will be released for broadcast in January, in time for cross promotion with the four television programs, scheduled by PBS for consecutive Wednesdays in January.
The seven one-hour radio programs are:
1. Land of Lakes and Cultures
(ethnic traditions, folk, alternative rock, gospel)
The mighty Mississippi starts as a trickle in Northern Minnesota then winds by 300 miles of Minnesota fields, forests and skyscrapers. Nowhere on its run to the Gulf is the terrain so varied. Same with the music. We'll hear the songs of Minnesota's first people, the Ojibwe Indians, then those of the immigrants to this wintry state: Scandinavian fiddlers, a Laotian flutist, and heat things up with the power house gospel of Sounds of Blackness, and alternative rockers Soul Asylum.
Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin
(jazz, bluegrass, folk, polka)
John Hartford picks one of the meanest banjos in the business. He's also a licensed riverboat pilot who has picked his way through the Mississippi's tricky sand bars and shoals for 25 years--never so at home as in his boat's pilot house. This program celebrates musicians who could live anywhere but who call the river and their small towns home. Young and old alike gather at lively bluegrass and polka festivals where music is heard on stage and in campsites late into the night.
(blues, R & B, gospel, country, African drumming)
"This is fly-over land," says country rocker Brian Henneman of the Bottle Rockets from Festus, Missouri. He likes it that way. We'll hang out with the loud band from a little river town. Then on to East St. Louis where Eugene Redmond's poetry pulses to the rhythm of West African drums. Across the river is Oliver Sain and his smoking sax and Fontella Bass whose gospel voice will stop you dead in your tracks.
Beale Street was where it all happened back in the '30s and '40s, blues, jazz, gambling, bootleg liquor. Rufus Thomas was there and has he got stories to tell! In the '60s Stax records kicked out hit after hit; the Memphis Horns were and still are studio giants. A visit to a recording session reveals their creative process and signature sound. We'll head south along the dusty roads and the cotton fields of the Delta and encounter the contemporary blues of Little Milton, fresh from a Vegas gig, and Big Jack Johnson who rocks the juke joint at the Bobo Corner Store.
This steamy stretch of Arkansas and Mississippi is Elvis country. Roy Orbison and Jerry Lee Louis got their starts here too, and now Sonny Burgess keeps the rockabilly soul alive and well. Levon Helm from The Band packs them in on a river boat and the powerful 100 voice Mississippi Mass Choir make joyful noise to the Lord.
(country, zydeco, Cajun)
Louisiana's swampy bayous fill the night with the sounds of bull frogs, the old time Cajun music of D.L. Menard and Christine Balfa and the zydeco accordion of Geno Delafose. Jimmie Davis, the 98-year-young former Louisiana governor, chimes in with Merle Haggard for the singing governor's greatest hit "You Are My Sunshine." Then its down to Delaxcroix Island at the Mississippi's mouth where Canary Islanders settled 200 years ago and where today their descendants trap, and fish and write ballads in the old tradition.
(R & B, folk, brass)
School kids carry their books under one arm and trumpets under the other parading through legendary Treme District where jazz greats pumped out the New Orleans' sound. In the Funky Butt bar, a drink will buy you the chance to sample the rhythm and harmony variations of jazz piano man Henry Butler. Out on the street, musicians David and Roselyn entertain with songs of voodoo culture and local color. And the burgeoning Soul Rebels dream of topping the charts as their brass band fuses classical and contemporary, Louis Armstrong and Puff Daddy.
Home | The River of Song Project | The Artists | Music Along the River | Calendar | Teacher's Guide | Press Room | The Store
© 1998 The Filmmakers Collaborative and The Smithsonian Institution, all right reserved