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The American Epic Sessions

Witness a historic recording session led by Jack White and T Bone Burnett with top artists, including Willie Nelson, Elton John, Nas, Taj Mahal, Alabama Shakes, Beck, and Los Lobos, as they recreate America’s musical past using a recording lathe.

AIRED: 6/06/2017 | EXPIRES: 6/03/2020 | 01:52:34
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Announcer: In 1925, electrical sound recording revolutionized the phonograph industry.

This new equipment was taken across America to record every type of music, and it changed American culture.

For the first time, America heard itself.

Only a few machines were ever made, and one has been painstakingly restored for an all-star recording session.

Jack White: So who should we record?

Let's record everybody in this style--rappers... ♪ She's on the road again ♪ ♪ Sure as you're born ♪ White: pop singers... ♪ Two fingers of whiskey ♪ Good, old-fashioned rye White: blues singers, country artists.

♪ Got that old-fashioned love in my eyes ♪ White: And all these artists are going to record with the first electric recording machine.

Nas: Recording here, it's like that time machine.

It brought me back to that world.

Announcer: 'American Epic' told the story of how technology, talent, and invention produced the DNA of America's music.

Now today's musicians turn back the clock to record their music... Taj Mahal: The same machines that my heroes have played on, to be back at the front of the recording industry?

This is incredible.

Announcer: In 'The American Epic Sessions.'

[Playing 'Wedding March'] [Playing bluegrass music] [Song changes] ♪ You people can talk about your cold she-rolled mamas ♪ ♪ Wobble your chin about your high speed and brown ♪ ♪ Well, I got a woman way down in Mobile, Alabama ♪ ♪ She's the warmest thing in that town ♪ ♪ Doggone, her skin ♪ She ain't got ♪ No, papa, leave me alone ♪ She ain't got ♪ No, big boy, please take me home ♪ ♪ This mama just got one object in view ♪ ♪ And what she said to me I know she's bound to say to you ♪ ♪ She'll say, papa, if you ain't got ♪ ♪ No matrimonial inclinations ♪ Then keep your hands to yourself ♪ ♪ Daddy, if you ain't got no bungalow-made reservations ♪ ♪ Son, don't let your hands be felt ♪ ♪ Well, I'm this red-hot papa you heard so much talk about ♪ ♪ But this is an asbestos woman ♪ ♪ Who'll mortally put your fire out, hmm ♪ ♪ Papa, if you ain't got no matrimonial inclinations ♪ ♪ Just keep your hands to yourself ♪ ♪ No, no, no ♪ When I first met you, I had no shoes ♪ ♪ But look at me now, I got these barefooted blues, hmm ♪ ♪ Papa, if you ain't got no matrimonial intentions ♪ ♪ Please keep your hands to yourself ♪ ♪ No, no, no Yeah.

♪ Papa, if you ain't got no matrimonial inclinations ♪ ♪ Please keep your hands to yourself ♪ ♪ Daddy, if you ain't got no bungalow-made reservations ♪ ♪ Son, don't let your hands be felt ♪ ♪ Well, I'm this red-hot papa you heard so much talk about ♪ ♪ But you're an asbestos woman ♪ Who'll mortally put my fire out, hmm ♪ ♪ Papa, if you ain't got no matrimonial intentions ♪ ♪ Oh, Death, where is thy sting? ♪ [Buzz] [Violin tuning] Nick Bergh: Power it up, if we're lucky.

Bernard MacMahon: Is that one of the first amplifiers ever made?

Bergh: Yeah, the amplifier rack from Western Electric that would've been wheeled into the early studios.

They installed them in '25.

MacMahon: Mm-hmm.

Bergh: The first audio amplifiers ever built.

Whoa. That is wild.

That's fantastic.

Bergh, voice-over: This is one of the, uh, first condenser microphones.

This is from 1928.

[Bluegrass music plays] You know, I think, you know, just keep that pace.

T Bone Burnett: How much time did you say it took you to put all this together?

Bergh: Oh, like, 10 years or so, yeah.

Yeah, because I was kind of researching the history of it.

Burnett: Oh, yeah, I see.

Bergh: It's very complicated, yeah.

Burnett: But it's brilliant because they were dealing with rocks not... Exactly.

...not long before this.

Exactly.

[Man vocalizing] Burnett: This is the kind of machine they recorded Charley Patton on in 1929, and it's the only one in the world.

It's the only one left.

And it's the first time one's been working in 80 years.

It's pulley-driven.

You got 3 minutes to finish your song before the weight hits the floor.

[Playing 'If the River Was Whiskey'] ♪ If the river was whiskey and I was a duck ♪ ♪ I'd dive to the bottom, I'd never come up ♪ ♪ Tell me, how long have I got to wait? ♪ ♪ Can I get you now?

♪ Must I hesitate?

♪ If the river was whiskey and the banks was wine ♪ ♪ See me in bathing just any old time ♪ ♪ Tell me, how long have I got to wait? ♪ ♪ Can I get you now?

♪ Must I hesitate?

♪ Look here, woman, what you went and you done ♪ ♪ Caused me to love you, now your man is gone ♪ ♪ Tell me, how long have I got to wait? ♪ ♪ Can I get you now?

♪ Must I hesitate?

♪ Hesitating stockings and hesitating shoes ♪ ♪ Believe me, bones, I've got these hesitation blues ♪ ♪ Tell me, how long have I got to wait? ♪ ♪ Can I get you now?

♪ Must I hesitate?

Oh, wait for it, boy.

[Music ends] [Recording playing] That's pretty great.

Whoo hoo. Well done. That was fantastic.

You guys do that every day, do you, then, cut a record and play it back in the next 5 minutes?

That's the master now, OK?

Don't play that ever again.

[Laughter] Jack White, on recording: ♪ She ain't got no, papa, leave me alone ♪ ♪ She ain't got no, big boy, please take me home ♪ Yes! Sick.

White, on recording: ♪ This object in view ♪ Well, what she said to me, Lord, I know she'll say... ♪ White, voice-over: Recording studios in general have sort of been churches for music.

Always have been and basically always will be, I hope.

White, on recording: ♪ Please keep your hands to yourself ♪ You had to come rehearsed with your songs ready to go.

This is your one moment to do that.

And all the recordings, since the beginning of this recording technology, were like that.

You came to the room prepared for this moment.

So that's like going to church.

That's like getting on your best clothes and going to church for this moment to happen.

So who we should we record in this Twenties style?

I mean, everybody.

Let's record everybody in this style, you know--rappers, pop singers, blues singers, country artists.

I mean, it's sort of like if the field is wide open, and all these artists are going to record with the very first electric recording machine, and this is a very romantic way of recording.

You can't fix this later.

Any mistakes that happen are going to be there in-- in the finished record, which is a great place to be.

It's a scary place to be for some people, too.

Nas: This gave me a chance to go, like, through a time machine.

It's like, you know, you hear old records, and you hear that sound, the way they sound.

You just--you can picture how it must've been back then.

You kind of picture the world, and--and you hear the music, the song from back then, you can hear a different world.

And, um, so recording here, it's like that time machine that brought me back to that world.

['On the Road Again' by Memphis Jug Band plays] ♪ I went to my window, my window was propped ♪ ♪ I went to my door, my door was locked ♪ ♪ I stepped right back, I shook my head ♪ ♪ A big, black nigger in my folding bed ♪ ♪ I shot through the window, I broke the glass ♪ ♪ I never seen a little nigger run so fast ♪ ♪ He's on the road again, road again ♪ ♪ Lord, a natural-born Eastman on the road again ♪ [Buzzer] Man: Blue light.

♪ I wouldn't marry a black woman, here's the reason why ♪ ♪ Why?

♪ Black woman's evil, do things on the sly ♪ ♪ No ♪ You look for your supper to be good and hot ♪ ♪ Hot ♪ She never put the neck bone in the pot ♪ ♪ She's on the road again ♪ Sure as you're born ♪ ♪ Lord, a natural-born Eastman ♪ ♪ On the road again ♪ ♪ She's on the road again ♪ Sure as you're born ♪ ♪ Lord, a natural-born Eastman ♪ ♪ On the road again ♪ ♪ I went to my window, my window was propped ♪ ♪ I went to my door, my door was locked ♪ ♪ I stepped right back, I shook my head ♪ ♪ A big, black nigger's in my folding bed ♪ ♪ I shot through the window, I broke the glass ♪ ♪ I never seen a little nigger run so fast ♪ ♪ He's on the road again ♪ Sure as you're born ♪ ♪ Lord, a natural-born Eastman ♪ ♪ On the road again ♪ ♪ He's on the road again ♪ Sure as you're born ♪ ♪ Lord, a natural-born Eastman ♪ ♪ On the road again ♪ ♪ Your friend at your house just to rest his hat ♪ ♪ Next thing you want to know where your husband's at ♪ ♪ She says, 'I don't know, he's on his way to the pen' ♪ ♪ Come on, mama, let's get on the road again ♪ ♪ She's on the road again ♪ Sure as you're born ♪ ♪ Lord, a natural-born Eastman ♪ ♪ On the road again ♪ ♪ He's on the road again ♪ Sure as you're born ♪ ♪ Lord, a natural-born Eastman ♪ ♪ On the road again ♪ ♪ I wouldn't marry a black woman, let me tell you why ♪ ♪ Why?

♪ Black woman's evil, do things on the sly ♪ ♪ No ♪ You look for your supper to be good and hot ♪ ♪ Hot ♪ She never put the neck bone in the pot ♪ ♪ She's on the road again ♪ Sure as you're born ♪ ♪ Lord, a natural-born Eastman ♪ ♪ On the road again ♪ ♪ She's on the road again ♪ Sure as you're born ♪ ♪ Lord, a natural-born Eastman ♪ ♪ On the road again ♪ ♪ Yeah ♪ Uh-huh ♪ Yeah Nas, voice-over: The lyrics in that song that we did was basically a street rap record today.

Nas, on recording: ♪ Next thing you want to know where your husband's at ♪ ♪ She says, 'I don't know, he's on his way to the pen' ♪ Nas, voice-over: When you hear me saying it, you might think I wrote it, because it sounds like something today.

This is it, man. This is pretty cool.

Nas: And these guys are talking about carrying guns, shooting something, protecting their honor, chasing after some woman who's done them dirty.

This is not high-society black folks.

This is the down under, you know, street-wild black folk that--that, uh, they're singing about, and it's the same as today.

It's the same as rap music today.

So it just tells you something about our, um, uh, American culture, American music.

And, you know, when they look down on hip-hop music and look down, um, because of the words that we use and stuff like that, it didn't start with hip-hop.

It started--whew-- a long time ago.

It started with America.

[Piano and drums playing] [Knocks on door] Man: Ha ha ha!

White: Come on in.

I know you. Hi.

I know you. Ha ha ha!

Welcome, welcome.

Welcome, welcome.

So you guys are the mix.

Where we place you is the faders.

Yeah.

One foot this way, fader up.

You know, I-- I like that concept.

Very ea--very easy to understand.

Yeah, exactly.

White: In about 10 seconds.

[Buzzer] All right, it's rocking.

Let's do it.

♪ Well, the ugliest little thing you ever see'd before ♪ ♪ He didn't favor a tramp and he was no hobo ♪ ♪ He was an ugly little baby on the scout ♪ ♪ Terrible little sucker, hush your mouth ♪ ♪ He's an awful little creature ♪ ♪ He's a killer diller from the South ♪ ♪ He walked to the door where I was at ♪ ♪ I looked to his face, looked like a cryin' cat ♪ ♪ 'Cause he's a ugly little creature on the scout ♪ ♪ Terrible little baby, hush your mouth ♪ ♪ He's a awful little somethin' ♪ ♪ He's a killer diller from the South ♪ ♪ He walked down the street lookin' to showcase ♪ ♪ Statue walked up, I said you can take my place ♪ ♪ 'Cause he's an ugly little sucker on the scout ♪ ♪ Terrible little baby, hush your mouth ♪ ♪ Well, he's an awful little sucker ♪ ♪ He's a killer diller from the South ♪ ♪ Whoo-hoo ♪ He walked in a hotel, and everybody left ♪ ♪ He looked in the glass and just smiled to himself ♪ ♪ 'Cause he's an ugly little baby on the scout ♪ ♪ Terrible little creature, hush your mouth ♪ ♪ He's an awful little creature ♪ ♪ He's a killer diller from the South ♪ Bergh, voice-over: This is the, uh, the weight that powers the entire cutting lathe.

It's like a-- like a grandfather clock.

And the length of the rope determines how long you can record for.

So as the weight hits the ground, the recording's over, and the song's done.

As the weight falls, there's a governor in here that controls the-- the speed of the belt, and it does that by, uh, having these 3 lead weights on springs.

And so as the balls fly out, they'll go, say, like, 45 rpm, 60 rpm, 78 rpm, and when it hits to the speed you want, it's touching the leather, uh, pads here and applying friction and slowing the machine down.

That's what controls the-- the speed of the motor, and then from there, it follows the belt to the turntable here, and then goes through a series of gears... ...into a gear box here, and that controls the lines per inch on the record.

Um, and then from-- from there, it goes into the--the feed screw here, and that's what makes the lines on the record.

The cutting head is basically a small speaker.

So you're just moving the speaker back and forth, and attached to that is the, uh, cutting stylus.

And over here is the bellows pump.

It sucks the chip as it comes off the record.

[Indistinct chatter] Hey, Nick? Nick?

So here's the story with, uh, these--the warning lights up here.

So when Nick hits the blue light, that-- he's got the machines turning.

And that means we should be quiet until the red light goes on, and then the song can start.

And then it'll stay red the whole time until he lifts the needle off, and then he'll hit the blue light to let you know you can speak again.

And make sure you do it for a long time at the end.

[Buzzer] White: OK.

Los Lobos member: So after blue, we're good?

White: Yeah.

Once it says blue, then it's time to--to get ready for the cutting, and then at the end, blue means we can talk again.

Do you want to just go right in and do a cut?

All right.

White: All right, Nick, you ready?

[Buzzer] [Thud] Los Lobos member: Oh!

Los Lobos member 2: What--what was that?

White: You OK?

The weight?

Bergh: Yeah, the cable broke.

Los Lobos member: We broke the machine.

Los Lobos member 2: Because we're too heavy.

[Laughter] White: We're like, 'What was that?' Ha ha ha!

Boom!

[All talking at once] Los Lobos member: You got another one?

Bergh: Uh, we have length on that one, so we, uh... Duke Erikson: Of all the things that could've gone wrong... Bergh: Ha ha ha!

Erikson: ...the weight breaks.

Bergh: Exactly. Heh heh heh!

MacMahon: I can't even lift it.

So what's the weight of that?

Bergh: That's 105 pounds.

MacMahon: That would break your foot, wouldn't it?

Probably. It'd probably break a toe.

Heh heh.

White: If you were able to relieve it from here... Yeah, mm-hmm.

Well, I could go take it over to that car shop next door.

Bergh: Oh, really?

There's, uh, the upholstery place, or what?

White: If they do upholstery. You know what?

There is an upholstery place. I'll take it right over.

There's a place right down the street.

Oh, yeah?

I'll take it over if you do--if you, uh... Let me get it off of here, yeah. Yeah.

Could that be repaired, like, so it will be as good as new?

Yeah, it should be fine.

I mean, that's a freaky thing, man. What the hell?

I mean, we're not gonna use this, we're gonna just extend it.

We'll hang, like, a new piece right here.

Oh, I see.

Wrap it around and sew that right there.

White, voice-over: Well, there's this place I pass every day coming here, so they look like they're always open.

[Music plays on radio] White: Here we go.

Let's see what these guys got.

[Car chimes] Woman: How are you?

White: Well, we kind of have an emergency here.

This broke. OK.

And I need--I need to put a new piece through here.

OK.

Do you have a sewing machine here?

[Woman speaks indistinctly] White: Oh, yeah, this would be... This one here?

[Instrumental music plays] Gracias.

[Sewing machine whirs] Man on radio: Requesting that you joined the chorus, shredded that harpsichord.

White: Thank you so much for letting us do this.

We really appreciate it.

Woman: You have lots of talent, sir.

Do I know you?

I don't know. Ha ha ha!

Maybe we went to school together.

Maybe previous life.

Ha ha ha! OK.

Here we go.

OK.

Yeah, seems to be OK now.

White: All right.

Bergh: OK, here we go.

[Buzzer] ♪ Yo tenía mi cascabel con una cinta morada ♪ ♪ Con una cinta morada yo tenía mi cascabel ♪ ♪ Y como era de oropel ♪ Y como era de oropel, se lo di a mi prenda amada ♪ ♪ Pa' que jugara con él allá por la madrugada ♪ ♪ !¡Ay!, como resumba y suena ♪ ♪ !¡Ay!, como resumba y suena ♪ Resumba y va resumbando ♪ ♪ Resumba y va resumbando ♪ ♪ Mi cascabel en la arena ♪ ♪ Yo tenía mi cascabel con una cinta morada ♪ ♪ Con una cinta morada yo tenía mi cascabel ♪ ♪ Y como era de oropel ♪ Y como era de oropel, se lo di a mi prenda amada ♪ ♪ Pa' que jugara con él allá por la madrugada ♪ ♪ !¡Ay!, como resumba y suena ♪ ♪ Ay!, como resumba y suena ♪ Resumba y va resumbando ♪ ♪ Resumba y va resumbando ♪ ♪ Mi cascabel en la arena ♪ Nick, this is Elton.

Hi, Elton. How you doing? It's a pleasure.

So Nick has put this stuff together over a 10-year period.

Elton: So this goes straight onto disc?

Bergh: Yeah, yeah.

So this is the, uh, the weight-driven lathe here.

When the weight hits the floor... The recording's finished.

It has to be under 4 minutes.

It has to be under 4 minutes?

White: Yeah.

Can you do it? Oh, come on.

[Laughter] That's what sex is-- sex is like that for me now.

[Laughter] [Piano plays] ♪ Cheat just to get on by ♪ I cheated... [Indistinct] ♪ I cheat in my sinning ways ♪ ♪ Gonna keep on gettin' high ♪ ♪ If I can't save my sinning ways ♪ ♪ Gonna keep on gettin' high ♪ You like that?

I like the way you started it: 'When I'm awake, I'm lookin' back.'

♪ Wa da da wa da da da ♪ ♪ I cheated just to get on by ♪ ♪ If I can't save my sinning ways ♪ Then change there.

♪ My sinning ways Then again.

Can you... [Piano chords change] Yeah, like that.

White: That's sick, yeah.

White: Intro.

♪ Living in me White: That was done twice there?

Did you do it twice there once?

♪ Living-- those 3 chords, 'Living in me'? ♪ Living--keep drowning the devil ♪ ♪ Living in me I think you did that once. That was cool.

Yeah? Yeah.

Hang on a minute.

♪ It's the devil in me ♪ [Piano plays] Nice! Yeah, yeah.

Elton: ♪ To keep me-- keep drowning the devil ♪ ♪ Living in me Burnett: Yes, yes!

White: That's a cool wraparound there.

You want to play on this?

White: Well, if I could just lean next to you and sort of, like, get really in-- lots of tambourine and really annoying.

[Laughter] Let me tune this thing up.

[Tuning guitar] White, voice-over: 'Good old-fashioned...' I don't know what note to hit there.

You're going, ♪ Good old-fashioned rye ♪ ♪ Good--good old-fashioned rye ♪ ♪ Good old-fashioned rye-- ♪ OK.

Both: ♪ Two fingers of whiskey, good old-- ♪ ♪ Good--good old-fashioned-- ♪ What did you say now?

I missed it.

♪ Two fingers of whiskey, good old-fashioned rye ♪ ♪ Good old-fashioned rye ♪ Good--good old-fashioned rye ♪ Both: ♪ Two fingers of whiskey, good old-fashioned rye ♪ Cool. OK.

Both: ♪ Two fingers of whiskey, that is all I need ♪ ♪ To keep drowning the devil living in me ♪ One more time for me.

Elton: Is that Mr. Taupin? Taupin: Yes, it is.

Elton: Ah! You know Jack?

Taupin: No, I don't. Hi. How are you?

Honor to meet you.

How are you? Really great.

Yeah? This is the same equipment-- he'll tell you-- Bessie Smith made her records on.

Taupin: Really?

White: This amplifier was the very first amplifier.

Yeah? That's great.

White: This lathe is a Scully lathe.

Elton: I just saw that. I thought it was an espresso machine.

White: Ha ha ha!

Taupin: That's outrageous. Yeah, that's great.

I'll let you, uh-- I'll meet you down there.

Has Bernie Taupin ever come in and not like what you're doing with the lyrics?

Never done.

In 46 years of writing, he's never said anything bad about it.

He just-- he walks in... Yeah, he just walks away from it, and that's the way it happens.

He walks in and hears it, and that's the way.

It's never been in the same room.

White: That's killer. Weird, isn't it?

White: So cool.

I still get excited... White: Yeah.

...playing a melody to the newly written lyric as I did when I started 46 years ago.

And I just never questioned the way we write, and I just-- it just--it's just kismet.

White: So cool.

[Piano plays] White: All right, we're ready to go.

I got my guitar.

[Plays electric guitar] [Buzzer] Elton: ♪ I cheated just to get on by ♪ ♪ Yeah, I cheated just to get on by ♪ ♪ If I can't save my sinnin' ways ♪ ♪ Gonna keep on gettin' high ♪ ♪ I'm sleeping off the weekend drunk ♪ ♪ Sleeping off the weekend drunk ♪ ♪ When I'm awake, I'm lookin' back ♪ ♪ At all the ships I've sunk Both: ♪ Two fingers of whiskey, good old-fashioned rye ♪ ♪ Wish I were bound for glory and prohibition dry ♪ ♪ Two fingers of whiskey, that is all I need ♪ ♪ To keep drownin' the devil livin' in me ♪ ♪ Livin' in me ♪ I'm hangin' on the hook of the moon ♪ ♪ Hangin' on that crescent moon ♪ ♪ If I don't get out of this bottle ♪ ♪ Lord, you're gonna see me soon ♪ ♪ Just like a dog, I wanna howl ♪ ♪ Like an old dog, I wanna howl ♪ ♪ Used up all of my aces ♪ ♪ Who is gonna save me now? ♪ Both: ♪ Two fingers of whiskey, good old-fashioned rye ♪ ♪ Wish I were bound for glory and prohibition dry ♪ ♪ Two fingers of whiskey, that is all I need ♪ ♪ To keep drownin' the devil livin' in me ♪ ♪ Livin' in me Elton: ♪ Oh Both: ♪ Two fingers of whiskey, good old-fashioned rye ♪ ♪ Wish I were bound for glory and prohibition dry ♪ ♪ Two fingers of whiskey, that is all I need ♪ ♪ To keep drownin' the devil livin' in me ♪ ♪ Livin' in me ♪ Livin' in me [Buzzer] Yeah. That was good.

That was my favorite, yeah?

It rocked, too, and it felt-- and the quiet parts felt good.

Yay!

♪ It's all out on the old railroad ♪ ♪ It's all out on the sea ♪ All out on the old railroad, far as I can see ♪ ♪ Swing and turn, Jubilee, live and learn, Jubilee ♪ ♪ Hardest work I ever done, workin' on the farm ♪ ♪ Easiest work I ever done, swingin' my true love's arms ♪ ♪ Swing and turn, Jubilee, live and learn, Jubilee ♪ ♪ If I had me a needle and thread, as fine as I could sew ♪ ♪ I'd sew my true love to my side ♪ ♪ And down this creek I'd go ♪ Swing and turn, Jubilee, live and learn, Jubilee ♪ ♪ If I had no horse to ride, I'd be found a-crawlin' ♪ ♪ Up and down this rocky road Lookin' for my darlin' ♪ ♪ Swing and turn, Jubilee, live and learn, Jubilee ♪ ♪ Some will come on Saturday night ♪ ♪ Some will come on Sunday ♪ If you give 'em half a chance, they'll be back on Monday ♪ ♪ Swing and turn, Jubilee, live and learn, Jubilee ♪ ♪ I won't have no widow man, neither will my cousin ♪ ♪ You can get such stuff as that for 15 cents a dozen ♪ ♪ Swing and turn, Jubilee, live and learn, Jubilee ♪ Monroe, voice-over: When I first auditioned at Columbia Records, uh, somebody said, 'You're so young'-- and everybody said that I was-- I was 15-- and I said, 'Yeah, but I'm channeling an old man that worked on the railroad that's 90 years old,' and he was kind of like, 'What in the world?'

But it's weird.

I've--I've heard these melodies, these old melodies, and--and I-- I don't know.

I feel like sometimes I'm just channeling things that I've heard since I was a little bitty girl.

When those record companies-- Columbia and Victor-- they started organizing talent contests throughout the South, thousands of people would travel from hundreds of miles around to these auditions.

So they would advertise in local papers and say, 'Columbia Records are coming to Johnson City, Tennessee.

'If you would like to be immortalized on a phonograph record, turn up on the 14th of April.'

And I would've went if I saw that in the paper, even in my lifetime.

So, yeah, I-- I would've.

And so most of the people making the records had never heard records themselves.

Yeah?

Radio hadn't come to rural America.

So if you were living in Avalon, Mississippi, you hadn't really heard anything outside of your local town.

So you could see all the strands of what make up American culture before it starts mingling together, and-- And music did it. Yeah, and music did it.

Which makes music so important.

That's what tells the stories.

And when you sing it, or when you-- when you put a story and words to music, somehow people take it gentler.

Like, they-- I don't know.

There's something about it that makes it instantly relatable.

♪ Well, backwater at Blytheville done turned all around ♪ ♪ The backwater at Blytheville done took Joiner town ♪ ♪ It was 50 families and children ♪ ♪ Come to sink and drown ♪ Oh, water was risin' up to my friend's door ♪ ♪ Yeah, the water was risin' up to my friend's door ♪ ♪ The man said to his womenfolk, 'Lord, we got to go' ♪ We had to get out of there.

♪ Oh, the water was risin', yeah, got up all in my bed ♪ ♪ Yeah, the water was risin', got all up in my bed ♪ ♪ I thought I would take a trip out on that old ice sled ♪ ♪ Oh, I can hear, Lord, water upon me ♪ ♪ Oh, I can hear water up on my door ♪ ♪ I couldn't get no boats, nobody goin' down no more ♪ ♪ So that water was risin', but I'm not sinkin' down ♪ ♪ Oh, the water was risin', people sinkin' down ♪ ♪ It was 50 mens, women, and children ♪ ♪ Come to sink and drown ♪ Lordy, grown men, women-- grown men, women, they drown ♪ ♪ Oh, women and childrens, Lord, they sinkin' down ♪ ♪ I couldn't see nobody's house, nobody could be found ♪ ♪ Backwater at Blytheville has gone up all around ♪ ♪ Backwater at Blytheville done took Joiner town ♪ ♪ It was 50 families and children ♪ ♪ Come to sink and drown Taj Mahal, voice-over: I love a lot of Charley Patton's stuff.

Charley Patton was kind of like the template for a whole lot of people... um, um, Howlin' Wolf and P-Papa Charlie Jackson.

And the interesting thing about his voice is that it goes back to an older African style where they mask the voice in this kind of rough sound and usually surround themself with some sort of spirit raffia-sound thing, you know.

And nobody knows who this person is because he changes his voice and comes out at a certain part of the ceremony to raise the consciousness or excitement or bring down a certain, you know, uh, spirit or deity, whatever.

So it's just interesting hearing it come up in the blues the way it did and travel from several generations in the blues.

And today's song, 'High Water Everywhere,' is the narration of a huge flood that happened in this town from somebody who was at ground zero.

It's not a happy song, but it's a very powerful way he delivers it, with himself as a--just a single musician and a guitar.

Just--every time I hear it, it just--it's-- it's one of those songs that just stop you and make you listen to it.

What was it inspired you to participate in these sessions?

Just the idea to be back at the front of the recording industry?

This is incredible. You know?

I mean, the same machines that my heroes and mentors have played on and that this industry got jump-started from?

I'd certainly like to be a part of that, you know.

In reverence for them is to come back and do it this way.

MacMahon: Yeah. And it's the sound.

I don't think you can get any better than the--than vinyl.

I mean, you can get clean, blah-blah-blah, pristine, you know, get all this-- but you can't get that juice.

You know, it's like give two people a chicken and some vegetables and some--and two stoves to cook on...ohh.

Unless--unless they're twins and they grew up in the same house, one chicken's gonna be good, and one chicken's gonna be off the hook.

Heh heh.

And that's the way this is for me--off the hook.

I love it.

Were you telling me that this capsule is the exact same capsule inside this mike?

Yeah, yeah, the same, uh, same diaphragm and everything, but the electronics are different.

Same diaphragm, different electronics.

And this is the very first microphone?

Right, yeah.

This is the one they started to use in 1925 and '26 and '27.

This is actually an omnidirectional microphone, uh, however, it's very directional at high frequencies.

So even though, in theory, you want to able to, uh, sit here or here and sound the same, because it's directional high frequencies, uh, there's a bit of a EQ shift as you move from left to right on the microphone, as you've experienced.

Yeah. I like this part of it, though.

I like the positioning of the people instead of the microphones.

Right. It makes it a completely different experience.

You would never do that in a modern recording studio.

You would never keep the microphone in one place and move people around it, really.

You--you basically put things where you want them and put the mikes near them or far away from them as--as to your taste. Right.

And this is a more interesting way to do it.

Yeah.

So Bernard tells me that, um, Justin Bieber and the Beatles are coming up next.

Nice. Excellent.

So we'll be right back after these messages.

Pokey LaFarge: ♪ Sing the blues MacMahon: OK, great. OK, that's really good.

What is it, though? Where's it coming in?

3:50?

White: Oh, time-wise, the guy is 4 minutes.

Probably 4, about 4:10.

Is it really?

I think we played the slow part really slow.

Band member: Because we're in the groove of it in the slow part.

MacMahon: We need to come down to around 3:30.

That's all the time we have on this machine.

White: So it's at 4:10 now. Under 4 is better.

And over 4 is not an option.

The other option will just be that I pick it up.

You know, I do that pickup at 'St. Louis Blues,' and then just end it on a verse.

But that seems like it's a little--that's a little too quick.

Is that after the guitar solo?

LaFarge: No, this is-- this is where it picks up for the first time.

[Guitar playing stops] That would just be singing right there the whole time.

And then the guitar solo?

LaFarge: And then the guitar solo, but that's probably only gonna give you 10, 15 seconds.

White: Can you do a shorter guitar solo?

Band member: You mean, like, just like one part and start singing?

Hold on a second. Yeah.

[Guitar plays] That's how we do it. [Guitar playing stops] So you do half of that, and we go into the two, into the 5, and then into that outro.

Let's see how long that is.

LaFarge: What do we got? White: 3:23.

MacMahon: Well done! LaFarge: Yeah, we got it.

All right. [Applause] MacMahon: You have a pop single.

[Chuckling] ♪ Oh, I hate to see ♪ That evening sun go down ♪ Yes, I do ♪ Oh, I hate to see ♪ That evening sun go down ♪ Mmm ♪ She's going to meet at that Carolina ♪ ♪ She's makin' her last go-round ♪ ♪ Feelin' tomorrow just like I feel today ♪ ♪ Feelin' tomorrow just like I feel today ♪ ♪ Well, I'm gonna pack my grip, boys ♪ ♪ And pray I can go back home to St. Louis today, today ♪ ♪ St. Louis woman with a diamond ring ♪ ♪ How she drags her man around, how? ♪ ♪ How, by her little apron string ♪ ♪ And if it wasn't for powder, oh, no, and her store-bought hair ♪ ♪ Yes, that hair ♪ Well, that St. Louis woman of mine ♪ ♪ You know she would've gone nowhere ♪ ♪ Nowhere Let me tell you about it.

♪ I got the St. Louis ♪ Oh, yeah, I'm blue as I can be ♪ ♪ St. Louis blues ♪ I'm blue as I can be Tell them about it, Adam.

♪ Oh-oh-oh-oh, I hate to see ♪ ♪ That evening sun go down ♪ Wah-wah-wah-wah-wah-wah-wah ♪ Oh, it means that gal of mine ♪ ♪ Oh, she's makin' her last go-round ♪ ♪ Oh ♪ Oh, my good gal has left me ♪ Mmm-mmm-mmm ♪ With the South City St. Louis Blues ♪ Clarence 'Tom' Ashley: ♪ Oh, the cuckoo ♪ She's a pretty bird ♪ She warbles as she flies ♪ She never hollers cuckoo ♪ Till the fourth day of July ♪ Oh, the cuckoo, she's a good bird ♪ ♪ And she warbles as she flies ♪ ♪ And she never hollers cuckoo ♪ Until the fourth day of July ♪ ♪ Jack of diamonds, Jack of diamonds ♪ ♪ I know you of old ♪ You robbed my poor pockets ♪ Of my silver and gold ♪ I gambled in England ♪ And I've gambled in Spain ♪ I bet you $10 ♪ That I'll beat you the very next game ♪ ♪ Gonna get me, get me a shotgun ♪ ♪ Just as long as I am tall ♪ Gonna fill my big shotgun ♪ With a 10-inch iron ball ♪ Gonna build me a log cabin ♪ On a mountain far away ♪ Gonna live there with my true love ♪ ♪ Till we both then pass away ♪ Sometimes I wonder ♪ What makes women love men ♪ And I look back, and I wonder ♪ ♪ What makes men love them [Buzzer] Bergh, voice-over: Come on in.

The lathe room. Nice and toasty like the old, Smells like a lathe room. uh-- [Laughing] Yeah.

Like the old wax days, nice and toasty.

So here's the machine.

Um, it's, uh, weight-driven.

So there's a big, uh, a big hunk of lead right here.

Uh, it's 105 pounds or so.

[Low whistle] That's your microscope.

Exactly, yeah.

Hot diggity!

Yeah, y'all didn't mess around, did you?

[Bergh chuckles] How long did it take you to put this together?

Oh it's been a long time, I mean, 'cause the, uh, the Western Electric rack, especially, was, um, it was only leased equipment.

And so none really survived all intact, so I just had to kind of, you know, p--piece together each-- each individual piece until it was a-- was a complete system.

So that only happened maybe about a year ago, but I've been working on it maybe for like a decade or so, trying to piece it all together.

[Chuckles] You've done this so that nerds like me and others can sit here and go, 'Cool! ' [Laughing] All right.

Let's, uh, let's go for it.

We shall leave.

Sounds good.

Yeah.

[Guitar playing] Bergh: That's good.

Paxton: Can I see what's in the box?

Bergh: Yeah.

There's some, uh... Some stuff. some new parts... but, yeah, this is the tube.

Just don't put your fingers in there.

It might zap you.

Sounds--sounds good. Ha ha!

Oh, man.

There's the other tube in the bottom there.

So how many folks are like me and would, like, set their chewing gum right before they start?

Probably a lot. 'Bubba...' All the--all the dings, yeah, all the cigarette, uh, marks there.

Yeah. 'Bubba, I can't hear you. Hold on.'

[Laughter] Maybe you should keep in mind, Jerron, the projection of your voice.

Yeah, yeah, my guitar tends to get out of-- Just kind of-- out of control? Ha ha!

I can hear me all right, but I can't hear the guitar, so I want to... [Strums loudly] Yeah. Well, you--you can hear yourself in here.

Yeah. Yeah, yeah.

So just think--think in terms of projecting it into that mike, your voice, a little bit.

You know, without-- without thinking about it too much.

[Chuckling loudly] [Guitar playing] ♪ Candy man ♪ Salty dog ♪ Candy man ♪ Salty dog ♪ Candy man ♪ Salty dog ♪ Just give anything and-- ♪ Just see that candy man home ♪ Candy man ♪ Santy Claus ♪ Candy man ♪ Santy Claus ♪ Candy man ♪ Santy Claus ♪ If you can't be my candy man ♪ You can't see my Santy Claus ♪ Big leg Ida ♪ Big leg Ida ♪ Big leg Ida ♪ Big leg Ida ♪ Oh, sure!

♪ Big leg Ida ♪ Big leg Ida ♪ I love that big leg gal ♪ God knows I do, ah ♪ Run, get the pitcher ♪ Get my baby some beer ♪ Run, get the pitcher, get my baby some-- ♪ [Inhales] ♪ Run, get the pitcher, get my baby some beer ♪ ♪ Run, get the pitcher, get my-- ♪ ♪ Run, get the pitcher, get my baby some beer ♪ ♪ Run, get the pitcher ♪ Get my baby some beer ♪ Wish I was in New Orleans ♪ A-sitting on the candy stall ♪ ♪ Little red light ♪ Little green light ♪ Little red light ♪ Little green light ♪ Little red light ♪ Little green light ♪ Stop on a red and go on a green ♪ ♪ Don't mess with Mr. In Between ♪ ♪ Candy man ♪ Salty dog ♪ Candy man ♪ Santy Claus ♪ Candy man ♪ Fattenin' the hog ♪ I wish I was in New Orleans ♪ A-sittin' on the candy stall ♪ [Buzzer] ♪ Yes, sir ♪ And that ain't all Yay.

♪ Wahine poupou pau hana nu'u la ♪ ♪ Tomi tomi ♪ Ua palupalu... le'a...la ♪ ♪ Tomi tomi ♪ Wahine poupou pau hana nu'u la ♪ ♪ Tomi tomi ♪ Uha palupalu piha i ka poi la ♪ ♪ Tomi tomi [Speaking Hawaiian] [Speaking Hawaiian] ♪ Wahine poupou ko Honolulu la ♪ ♪ Tomi tomi ♪ Ua paha wele 'oe 'ia mai nei la ♪ ♪ Tomi tomi ♪ Wahine poupou ko Honolulu la ♪ ♪ Tomi tomi ♪ Ua wele paha 'oe 'ia mai nei la ♪ ♪ Tomi tomi [Speaking Hawaiian] [Speaking Hawaiian] ♪ Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana la ♪ ♪ Tomi tomi ♪ Wahine poupou ko Honolulu la ♪ ♪ Tomi tomi ♪ Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana la ♪ ♪ Tomi tomi ♪ Wahine poupou pau hana nu'u la ♪ ♪ Tomi tomi [Speaking Hawaiian] [Speaking Hawaiian] [Speaking Hawaiian] [Song ends] MacMahon: First of all, thank you so much for coming down to do this.

Thank you, baby, for having me.

This is the earliest and never-before-seen picture of Ma Rainey.

Lavette: Mm! That was my mother's favorite singer.

Really?

My mother was born and raised on a plantation in Louisiana in 1906.

So these were her singers.

And I had never heard their names.

And when she told me many of these names: Memphis Minnie; Ma Rainey; Clara Smith, who you never hear of.

You hear of Bessie, but you never hear of Clara; and Lead Belly.

And, um, I never heard anyone mention those names for the first 30 years of my career.

I had only heard those names from my mother.

And, um, we had a jukebox in the living room.

And my mother had records on that jukebox by all the people that, uh, she liked.

And she would sing those songs And I don't think that I was trying to learn It's just that that was the only singing I had heard, so when I started to sing, I sung like she sung. Ha ha!

Wow. Yeah.

But blacks from this time were totally bastardized.

So by the time I started singing, I wanted to be anything but her.

Anything. So, uh, this all comes to my ear in two kinds of ways.

You know, it's a great discovery for you.

It's, um, it's a lot of different things for me.

It makes me feel a lot of different ways because when I first started singing, when my first record came out in 1962, if they said, 'OK, you're going on a tour,' uh, which was more like a--a minstrel show, but if B.B. King was the star, you did not want to go 'cause he reminded you of this.

And everybody knew that was Uncle Tomish and coonish.

So you wanted to go with whoever was new-- the Drifters and whatever.

You didn't want to go with B.B. King. Mm-mm.

I--every time I think of that, it hurts me.

You know, I s--I wish I could go anywhere with him now, just anywhere.

Down to the corner store or go wherever.

[Laughing] So this early music, does it actually represent the tough times of the-- of the Twenties and-- And that was what they sung about.

And because, um, the, um-- when they'd write the stories they're almost lewd and lascivious because our love lives and sexual lives at that point weren't private.

Especially during slavery, there was certainly no privacy in your sex life or love life.

They talked about it freely.

They talked about you doing it freely. And-- and the songs, uh, certainly show that.

And one of the things that made whites kind of look down on a lot of the music was because it said things that you weren't supposed to say.

You know, you just weren't supposed to say many of those things.

a perfect example.

You know, you didn't, uh, say those things in the--in the, um, Bing Crosby wasn't saying that.

[Frank Stokes' 'Ain't Nobody's Business' plays] Stokes: ♪ I'm going to run this town ♪ ♪ Watch out for me, I don't horse around ♪ ♪ Ain't nobody's business but mine ♪ ♪ If I had a million, I'd let you alone ♪ ♪ And work, good God, I'd stay at home ♪ ♪ It ain't nobody's business but my own ♪ ♪ Ain't nobody's business, honey ♪ ♪ How in the world I spend my money ♪ ♪ Nobody's business but mine ♪ Said my old man, he wrote me a letter ♪ ♪ He told me he's gonna treat me better ♪ ♪ Nobody's business but mine ♪ Now, he wrote this letter ♪ He wrote me, said, 'Hey, if you're gonna do better, child' ♪ ♪ 'You'd better make haste' ♪ 'Ain't nobody's business but my own' ♪ ♪ 'It ain't nobody's business, honey' ♪ ♪ 'Where I hide my money' ♪ 'Nobody's business but mine' ♪ 'It ain't nobody's business, kid' ♪ ♪ 'Who I do my business with' ♪ 'Nobody's business but my own' ♪ ♪ 'Now, baby,' I said, 'you already been told me' ♪ ♪ '14 years before you wrote me' ♪ ♪ 'So I had me someplace else to go' ♪ ♪ 'Now I think that a rooster ain't got no comb' ♪ ♪ 'The Poor roustabout ain't got no home' ♪ ♪ 'It ain't nobody's business, kid' ♪ ♪ 'Where I got my money hid' ♪ 'Nobody business but mine' ♪ 'It ain't nobody's business, honey' ♪ ♪ 'Where I find my money' ♪ 'Nobody's business but my own' ♪ ♪ Business, business, baby ♪ Nobody's business but my own MacMahon: All right.

I want to thank you so much for... Thank you. Mwah! Mwah!

Thank you! Ha ha.

D--do you want me to just--to just go through these things real quick or...? MacMahon: Yeah, please. Yeah.

Take us through these.

Do all those parts work or are most of them just for show?

It's all just for show. I have my, uh, there's this iPod hidden inside here. And I--ha ha!

[Laughter] I just turn all the tubes on for show. Ha ha!

[Laughter continues] Bergh: So here in the live room, the musicians, uh, play and sing into the microphone.

Uh, and their sound waves hit a very thin aluminum foil called the diaphragm.

And this creates fluctuations of voltage through a small amplifier that's just under the microphone.

Uh, this amplifies the voltage just enough to send it down through the 50 feet or so of cable all the way to the recording room.

the Western Electric amplifier here at the microphone input.

So, uh, so here is the, uh, the microphone amplifier.

Um, and this is the level control here... from--from zero all the way to 12.

And so these are the-- the amplifying tubes here.

Uh, they're pretty much the-- the heart of this 1920s recording system.

And, uh, AT&T once called these a bottle of magic.

Uh, the tube is what provides the amplification of the sound through the entire system.

And it allows a small amount of voltage to modulate the invisible river of electrons flowing through the tube.

Uh, this electron river is created by this bright filament here, uh, boiling off electrons that are being attracted to, uh, the plate on the opposite side of the tube.

The music we're recording is actually inside of this bottle.

Or, in other words, a bottle of magic. Ha ha!

So, basically, the, uh, the job of these amplifiers is to take the--the small amount of voltage from the output of the microphone and create enough power, uh, to move the stylus back and forth and actually cut the record.

Again, in a modern recording situation, you know, this entire 70-pound amplifier can--can be made in a--you know, like a one-inch little chip, you know?

It's, uh, you know, it's, uh-- this is the--the very earliest incarnation of this.

[New song starts] White: Um, you want to try, uh, one of your songs?

Scott Avett: Yeah. We just kind of identify with that.

Anything you want to do.

Scott: Seth, what do you think about this?

What do you think about just 'A Closer Walk'? A cappella, like, just a little bit of guitar and not--and just have 3 vocals?

That's cool, too, yeah. That's fine, yeah.

I mean, you know, just doing a little-- a little old-school gospel added to it.

That would be great. Yeah. Just a cappella?

Well, almost. We do--we do-- uh, just one guitar accompaniment... OK, great. Yeah. And-- Yeah. Let's try it.

You want to hear it?

That's great. Let's hear it.

[Playing guitar] ♪ I am weak ♪ But Thou art strong ♪ Jesus keeps me from all wrong ♪ ♪ I'll be satisfied ♪ As long ♪ As I walk ♪ Dear Lord ♪ Close to Thee All: ♪ Just a closer walk with Thee ♪ ♪ Just a closer walk with Thee ♪ ♪ Just a closer walk with Thee ♪ Scott: ♪ Grant it, Jesus ♪ Is my plea ♪ Just a closer walk with Thee ♪ ♪ Just a closer walk with Thee ♪ All: ♪ Daily walking close to Thee ♪ ♪ Let it be ♪ Dear Lord ♪ Let it be Scott and Bob: ♪ When my feeble life ♪ Is o'er [Microphone feedback] ♪ Time for me ♪ Will be no more ♪ Guide me gently ♪ Safely o'er ♪ To Thy king-- MacMahon: We've had a mike cut out.

OK.

White: I don't know what that feedback is.

Is it still happening, Nick? Can you hear me?

Bergh: Yeah. Is it still happening?

Man: Maybe somebody doesn't want you to play this.

Mm-hmm-hmm!

[Crackling] White: Nick, what do you think?

Bergh: Looks like it's on the microphone, this side.

Burnett: Oh, man, we got a wicked buzz, huh?

Yeah. Jesus.

Where'd that come from now, the microphone?

It appeared out of nowhere. Ha ha!

White: Nothing changed. Nobody was moving around.

Yeah. Nothing. Yeah.

Then all of a sudden in the middle of the take.

MacMahon: Now, gentlemen, we seem to have encountered a-- a minor mi--a problem with the machine.

We've got a kind of hum on it, which they're trying to troubleshoot at the moment.

[Hum continues] Let me check the mike one more time, and I'll see if, uh-- I'm gonna bring the mike in here.

♪ Ah ah ah... [Strumming guitar] Avett Brothers: ♪ Grant it, Jesus ♪ Is my plea ♪ Daily walking close to Thee ♪ ♪ Let it be White: ♪ Lord Scott: ♪ Dear Lord ♪ Let it be White: ♪ In this world of toils and snares ♪ White and Avett Brothers: ♪ If I falter, Lord, who cares? ♪ Seth: Yes!

♪ Ah, who with me my burden shares? ♪ ♪ Oh, none but Thee ♪ O, dear Lord All: ♪ No, none but Thee Oh, yeah!

White and Avett Brothers: ♪ Just a closer walk with Thee ♪ Bob and Seth: ♪ Just a closer walk with Thee ♪ ♪ Just a closer walk with Thee ♪ ♪ Grant it, Jesus ♪ Is my plea ♪ Just a closer walk with Thee ♪ ♪ Just a closer walk with Thee ♪ ♪ Daily walking close to Thee ♪ ♪ Let it be ♪ Dear Lord ♪ Let it be ♪ When my feeble life ♪ ♪ Is o'er Scott: ♪ Time for me ♪ Will be no more ♪ ♪ Guide me gently ♪ ♪ Safely o'er ♪ To Thy All: ♪ Kingdom's shore ♪ To Thy shore All right.

White and Avett Brothers: ♪ Just a closer walk with Thee Seth and Bob: ♪ Just a closer walk with Thee ♪ ♪ Just a closer walk with Thee ♪ Scott and White: ♪ Grant it, Jesus ♪ Is my plea Seth and Bob: ♪ Just a closer walk with Thee ♪ ♪ Just a closer walk with Thee ♪ Bob and Scott: ♪ Daily walking close to Thee ♪ All: ♪ Let it be ♪ Dear Lord ♪ Let it be All: ♪ Let it be ♪ Dear Lord ♪ Let it be [Laughter] Scott: All right. Did they get that?

Seth: Cut it. Release it in Japan.

Bergh: All right. So I-- so I think I see the problem here now. OK.

It got--it got hot in this room.

And so these, uh, the microphone power supply-- that was powering the, uh-- the mike in the other room, uh, got too--too hot and burnt up.

MacMahon: Do what you need to do.

And, uh, we'll try and start as late as possible tomorrow, yeah?

Sure.

MacMahon: Yeah?

What's it like with the kind of music you're into, recording on that machine?

Well, probably the more-- the most exciting thing for me is that Louis Armstrong recorded on it.

I'm a huge, huge Satchmo fan, so... that's--I mean, plus, I really like the scenario of recording, even if we-- even if it was going into a computer, I just like the idea of everybody gathering around a microphone and just going and find out what happens, you know? Yeah.

It's, uh, definitely an avenue to purity, you know? Yeah.

Get into the-- the absolute heart of the song and the absolute heart of the performance anyway.

Thanks very much. Thank you.

Such a pleasure. Thank you.

The pleasure's ours. Thank you.

It c--it could only have ended that way.

[Laughter] McGourty: So yesterday, the machine overheated.

It was--everything was too hot to handle.

Um, a diode broke, so... um, I think Nick might have spent the night trying to get everything fixed up.

So we're hoping that it's gonna be working again today.

Uh, but we're not quite sure what's gonna happen.

Bad power supply. It's still not fixed.

But I switched it out with another power supply.

But we'll see if it is actually fixed in a few minutes here.

[Musicians rehearsing] You just need to be--you need to be much more gentle-- You need to be gentle with this kind of gear.

It's very sensitive.

[Chuckles] OK, have we moved the position of the--the diaphragm head or not, Nick?

Bergh: No, no.

That doesn't-- Well, that's how it normally does it, isn't it?

Yeah. Yeah. Man: OK?

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Engineer: Ready, y'all?

Man: Necesitas mas espacio o estas bien asi?

No ahorita estabas bien.

Me das tiempo a expresar.

Now, this is a rehearsal.

Yeah. And then we-- we will listen back in the back room.

And her payment afterwards is $25 if this goes well.

[Speaking Spanish] No, no, no, no.

I need 30. 30.

Oh, 30. 30. We can do--we'll work-- we'll talk about it.

because on the--5.00 for my musicians... Oh, for the crew, yeah.

All right, guys. Let's get ready.

Let's keep it quiet down here on the set.

Ana Gabriel: God bless you. And thank you again.

Thank you. God bless you.

[Singing in Spanish] [Speaking Spanish] Beck and choir: ♪ Don't get drunk ♪ Don't get dry ♪ Just bring your money ♪ ♪ Bring your money ♪ Next Saturday night ♪ Mm-hmm ♪ Ooh, hum What do you guys think?

Yeah, it's cool. Uh, it's loud.

You know, so I could--it's-- it's sort of like, everything's loud.

So... OK.

it's gonna be-- it's like, if-- if every instrument and every voice just kind of went down a th--a third of its volume... Volume. it'll be a better recording.

Should I go down, too? I think you'll be-- you'll be fine.

I'm OK. All right. Your vocal will be fine.

I think we need to lower this mike to get this guitar because this is-- everything's so loud... Yeah, it's getting lost.

that this is not even getting picked up, which is crazy.

This is right in front of the mike.

You can see how crazy it is... But I'm having a h--hard time figuring out what to do with your voice because it's sort of the right volume, but it's sort of distorting.

So I don't really know-- So stand back a little bit.

I--I keep thinking that you're go-- you're aiming there.

When I look at you, you're not.

You're aiming off, so... Yeah. It's sort of trying to find that... Pretty much, this way. I can try this way again.

White: OK. You guys want to try it from the top?

Yeah. OK. Great.

Beck: You ready in there? OK.

That looks really cool. Ha ha!

It's amazing.

All right.

[Tapping guitar top] Beck and choir: ♪ 14 rivers ♪ 14 floods ♪ Bend your body Choir: ♪ Bend your body Together: ♪ To the heavens above ♪ Don't get drunk ♪ Don't get dry Beck: ♪ Just bring your money ♪ Choir: ♪ Bring your money All: ♪ Next Saturday night White: But wait a second. So that's too-- It's--no. Yeah. That was too much.

You couldn't hear the guitar at all.

Yeah. So what we got is a situation sort of like, when they're loud, it's just blowing up the mike and it's distorted.

When you're quiet, you sound like you're a hundred feet away.

[Buzzer] Beck: It's weird 'cause you have to sing different for that kind of a mike.

White: Yeah. You really do. Yeah.

You have to do everything different.

It sort of shows you how much they were sculpting their own stuff.

[Buzzer] The loud part is so amazing. I just-- I--I sort of like, I don't even know how to say do that quieter 'cause it's so amazing. I mean... Yeah. Can it be done quieter like that?

Conductor: Of course not. I'm joking.

[Laughter] It seems like a ridiculous request, so... [Buzzer] White: Can we do just the 3-part part where everyone--faces the--the--that direction?

Like, this direction?

It's still too loud, shockingly.

No, you literally want us to face that way?

Just to see what this-- I'd just say... Let's try it. OK.

[Buzzes] [Buzzes] [Buzzes] [Buzzes] ♪ 14 rivers, 14 floods Like, you're at about that level, right? Yeah.

Or are you louder than that?

Yeah. I think if you did--if you did that-- ♪ Bend your body... Might be able to be this close. Yeah.

♪ To the heavens above Yeah. And it sounds huge... whereas we're belting it out and it's a little distorted and kind of midrange.

It's not--it's not as... All: ♪ 14 rivers ♪ 14 floods ♪ Bend your body Choir: ♪ Bend your body ♪ To the heavens above ♪ Don't get drunk ♪ Don't get dry ♪ Just bring your money ♪ ♪ Bring your money ♪ Next Saturday night ♪ Hum ♪ Hoo hum ♪ 14 miles ♪ On the ten-town trail ♪ With a half-dead mule ♪ ♪ A half-dead mule ♪ And nothing on my mind ♪ All my life ♪ I've been talkin' fast ♪ Taking all the things ♪ ♪ Taking all the things that I ♪ ♪ Should've let pass ♪ Hum ♪ Hoo hum ♪ Putting ♪ My hat ♪ On a coffin nail ♪ Put another brick ♪ Then I put another brick ♪ ♪ In the fireplace ♪ I don't know ♪ About you or me ♪ Someone got loose ♪ Yeah, someone got loose ♪ ♪ On the downtown street [Tambourine] Choir: ♪ 14 rivers ♪ 14 floods ♪ 14 rivers ♪ 14 floods ♪ 14 rivers ♪ 14 floods ♪ 14 rivers ♪ 14 floods ♪ 14 rivers ♪ Rivers... ♪ Rivers ♪ 14 rivers ♪ Rivers... ♪ Rivers ♪ 14 rivers ♪ Rivers ♪ 14 rivers ♪ Rivers ♪ 14 rivers ♪ Rivers ♪ Rivers ♪ Rivers ♪ Rivers ♪ Rivers ♪ Rivers ♪ Rivers ♪ Rivers ♪ Rivers ♪ Rivers ♪ Rivers ♪ Rivers ♪ Rivers ♪ Rivers ♪ Rivers ♪ Rivers ♪ Rivers ♪ Rivers ♪ Rivers ♪ Rivers ♪ Rivers ♪ Rivers ♪ Rivers ♪ Rivers ♪ Rivers ♪ Rivers ♪ Rivers ♪ 14 rivers ♪ 14 floods ♪ 14 rivers White: Well, thanks, everybody.

A real good job.

Yeah, thank you.

Thank you, everybody.

[Indistinct conversations, tambourine playing] [Man cheers] Man: 14 Rivers! Woman: Yeah!

Woman: 1, 2, 3.

♪ I've always heard ♪ That haste makes waste ♪ So I believe in taking my... ♪ ♪ Time ♪ The highest mountain ♪ Can't be raced ♪ It's something you must slowly... ♪ ♪ Climb ♪ I want a slow and easy man ♪ He needn't ever take ♪ The lead ♪ 'Cause I ♪ Work on that long-time plan ♪ And I ain't lookin' ♪ For no speed ♪ I'm a one hour mama ♪ So no one minute papa ♪ Ain't the kind of man for me ♪ Set your alarm clock, papa ♪ One hour, that's proper ♪ Love me like I like to be ♪ I don't want no lame excuses ♪ 'Bout my lovin' being so good ♪ ♪ That you couldn't wait no longer ♪ ♪ Now, I hope I'm understood ♪ I'm a one hour mama ♪ So no one minute papa ♪ Ain't the kind of man for me ♪ I can't stand no greenhorn lover ♪ ♪ Like a rookie goin' to war ♪ With a load of big artillery ♪ But he don't know what's it for ♪ ♪ He's got to bring me a reference ♪ ♪ With a great long pedigree ♪ And he must prove he's got endurance ♪ ♪ Or he don't mean jack to me ♪ I don't like no crowin' rooster ♪ ♪ What hits a lick or two ♪ Action is my only booster ♪ Of just what my man could do ♪ I don't want no limitation ♪ My requirements ain't no joke ♪ ♪ Oh, I got pure indignation ♪ For a guy what's lost his stroke ♪ ♪ I'm a one hour mama ♪ So no one minute papa ♪ Ain't the kind of man for me ♪ Set your alarm clock, papa ♪ One hour, that's proper ♪ Then love me like I like to be ♪ ♪ I may want love for one hour ♪ Then decide to make it two ♪ Takes an hour 'fore I get started ♪ ♪ Maybe three 'fore I'm through ♪ ♪ I'm a one hour mama ♪ So no one minute papa ♪ Ain't the kind of man for me ♪ Oh oh oh ♪ Hmm [Drummer hits crash cymbal] [New song starts] Cleoma Breaux: ♪ Allons à Lafayette ♪ ♪ Mais pour changer ton nom ♪ On va t'appeler madame ♪ Madame Canaille Comeaux [Continues, indistinct] [Song fades] ♪ Allons à Lafayette ♪ ♪ Mais pour changer ton nom ♪ On va t'appeler madame ♪ Madame Canaille Comeaux ♪ Petite, t'es trop mignonne ♪ Pour faire ta criminelle ♪ Comment tu crois mais moi ♪ Je peux faire mais moi tout seul ♪ ♪ Mais toi, mon joli coeur ♪ Regarde donc mais quoi t'as fait ♪ ♪ Si loin comme moi j'suis de toi ♪ ♪ Et ça m'fait pitie ♪ Allons à Grand Couteau ♪ ♪ Pour aller voir Madame Michot ♪ ♪ Si donc elle ça va montrer ♪ Parler le sang français ♪ Allons à Lafayette ♪ ♪ Stealin', stealin' ♪ Pretty mama, don't you tell on me ♪ ♪ I'm stealin' back to my same old used to be ♪ ♪ I'm stealin' ♪ Stealin' ♪ Stealin' ♪ Stealin' Both: ♪ Pretty mama, don't you tell on me ♪ ♪ I'm stealin' back to my same old used to be ♪ ♪ Now, put your arms around me ♪ ♪ Like the circle 'round the sun ♪ ♪ I want to love you, mama ♪ Like the easy rider done ♪ If you don't believe I love you ♪ ♪ If you don't believe I'm sinking ♪ ♪ Look at the hole I'm in ♪ I'm stealin' ♪ Stealin' ♪ Stealin' ♪ Stealin' Both: ♪ Pretty mama, don't you tell on me ♪ ♪ I'm stealin' back to my same old used to be ♪ ♪ Yes, I'm Both: ♪ Stealin', stealin' ♪ Pretty mama, don't you tell on me ♪ ♪ I'm stealin' back to my same old used to be ♪ ♪ The woman I'm lovin' ♪ Just my height and size ♪ She's a married woman ♪ Come an see me sometime ♪ If you don't believe I love you ♪ ♪ If you don't believe I'm sinking ♪ ♪ Look at the hole I'm in ♪ I'm stealin' ♪ Stealin' ♪ Stealin' ♪ Stealin' Both: ♪ Pretty mama, don't you tell on me ♪ ♪ Yes, I'm Both: ♪ Stealin' ♪ Stealin' ♪ Pretty mama, don't you tell on me ♪ ♪ I'm stealin' back to my same old used to be ♪ ♪ All right ♪ Oh!

♪ Come on ♪ Oh ♪ I'm stealin' ♪ Stealin' ♪ Stealin' ♪ Stealin' ♪ I'm stealin' ♪ Back to my same old used to be ♪ Saadiq: I love the studio.

To walk in and see how a recording was done, I--I just--I just looked at it for a while and then, like, would wonder what it'd sound like.

It's amazing just to look at how it's built, you know, just look at the machine itself.

You know, every time I walk in the room, I'm still kind of stunned when I look at it.

It just made me feel like, 'Wow. Somebody built this to make music so other people could hear it.'

But it just has just like a magical sound the way that it's built.

It's true.

And it's from Memphis.

I think the South brings that into everybody.

Everybody wants to join in no matter who they are-- black, white, whoever they are.

It's like, everybody wants to sing a song like this.

It just feels great.

Bergh: Early electric recording is, uh, it was so well thought out and designed that it really set up, you know, the next 90 years of recording technology.

And, uh, this recording system was the--the result of a giant technological push by AT&T in the early 20th century.

AT&T's lab was often referred to as the ideas factory.

And some of the greatest minds in the world came together to work on this recording system.

I mean, it literally, uh, transformed the way the whole world communicated.

to set up recording sessions all over the country, where everyday people could record their songs and then have those songs distributed across America.

And even though millions of records were being made in the 1920s, there was only a couple dozen of these systems making those recordings.

And none of these recording systems have survived intact.

So what we've reassembled here is, like, the blueprint of American communication.

the blueprint of American communication.

It's staggering that it's the only one that's survived.

And, uh, things have gotten smaller, but--but, really, the basics are still there.

in the mid-twenties is still the most popular microphone we use today.

It's just smaller and has a better high-frequency response and such, but it's--it's the basic same, uh, same thing they worked out in the twenties.

[Vehicle in reverse signal] [Indistinct chatter] Kind of like back when you was at home.

Kind of. What?

Like it was when we was kids... Yeah.

Kind of the same thing.

Then--and then you, 'Some call him a sinner.'

And I say, 'I call him a winner.'

♪ Some call him-- Oh, I got that line, too?

You got that line. You go for the... ♪ I never robbed trains ♪ ♪ And I never did time ♪ I'm a man who is last to agree ♪ ♪ Some call me a sinner ♪ ♪ I call him a winner 'Some call him a sinner.

I call him a winner.'

That's what they got there.

We can do what we-- what we ... want to... 'He's the only man wilder than me...' W--wait a minute, though. So, I... 'I've never robbed trains 'and never did time.

I'm a man who's last to agree.'

Then I say, 'Some call me a sinner...' Then you say I think he's better-- 'And I call you a winner.'

'I call him--I call him a winner.'

How could he go wrong? Ha ha!

White: Let's get a blue light, Nick.

[Buzzes] ♪ He's the only man wilder than me ♪ Both: ♪ He's the only man wilder than me ♪ ♪ He's an outlaw, he's crazy ♪ ♪ And he's never been lazy ♪ He's busy on a lifelong spree ♪ ♪ He's the only man wilder than me ♪ ♪ I never robbed trains ♪ ♪ And I never did time ♪ I'm a man who's last to agree ♪ ♪ Some call me a sinner ♪ ♪ I call him a winner ♪ And he's the only man wilder than me ♪ ♪ He's the only man wilder than me ♪ ♪ The only man wilder than me ♪ ♪ I call him a winner ♪ And he's the only man wilder than me ♪ Nelson: ♪ If he ever really cared, he'd apologize ♪ ♪ Indifference has kept his mind free ♪ ♪ And he knows yesterday is dead ♪ ♪ And tomorrow is blind ♪ And he's the only man wilder than me ♪ Both: ♪ He's the only man wilder than me ♪ ♪ He's the only man wilder than me ♪ ♪ Some call me a sinner ♪ ♪ I call him a winner ♪ And he's the only man wilder than me ♪ ♪ He's the only man wilder than me ♪ Is him.

[Recording playing] Nelson and Haggard: ♪ He's the only man wilder than me ♪ Haggard: Is him.

[Indistinct chatter, applause] Nelson: What do you think?

Haggard: Let's do, uh, the-- the Bob Wills song.

White: Yeah, we'll get the band in there?

Yeah, let's get the band in there and cut it.

Man: 1, 2... [Drum beat] ♪ I got that old fashioned love in my heart ♪ ♪ Let's sing it ♪ And there it will always remain ♪ ♪ Like an ivy clinging vine ♪ ♪ Clinging closer all the time ♪ ♪ Through the years and the tears ♪ ♪ Just the same ♪ Got that old fashioned faith in my heart ♪ ♪ And nothing can tear it apart ♪ ♪ Dry land Both: ♪ May turn to sea ♪ But they'll find no change in me ♪ ♪ Got that old fashioned love in my heart ♪ Now, sing it, Willie. Sing it.

♪ I Got that old fashioned love in my heart ♪ ♪ And there it will always remain ♪ ♪ Like how?

♪ Like an ivy clinging vine ♪ ♪ Through the years and the tears ♪ ♪ Just the same ♪ I got that old fashioned faith ♪ ♪ In my heart ♪ And nothing can tear it apart ♪ ♪ Dry land may turn to sea ♪ But you'll find no change in me ♪ ♪ Got that old fashioned love in my heart ♪ ♪ Dry land may turn to sea ♪ But they'll find no change in me ♪ ♪ Got that old fashioned love in my heart ♪ ♪ Heart [Applause] MacMahon: Excellent.

White: That was a good one.

[Indistinct conversations] [Applause continues]