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Join American Routes for the year’s first official road trip holiday, Memorial Day. To commemorate it, we’ll visit roadside sites that are sacred: a shrine to Our Lady of the Highways and the grave of Jimi Hendrix. Plus an early traveler in rockabilly and rock ‘n’ roll; James Burton tells some tales.


The guitarist-singer Jimmie Rodgers has been called “The Father of Country Music,” “America’s Blue Yodeler,” and “The Singing Brakeman.” Born in Meridian, MS, in 1897, Rodgers recorded briefly between 1927 and 1933, but defined country music as “the white man’s blues” with a related legacy of crooning, jazz, Hawaiian guitar, and eclectic vaudeville-style entertainment. On the 70th anniversary of his death, American Routes looks at the life and legacy of Jimmie Rodgers. We’ll speak with biographer Nolan Porterfield, and hear comments from country singer Merle Haggard and bluesman John Jackson, among others. Also, music about Rodgers’ favorite subject—trains—in many styles… blues, country, soul, roots, rock and more.


Baton Rouge bluesman Henry Gray, composer of “I’m a Lucky, Lucky Man,” plays piano and tells tales of life’s downs and ups from humble beginnings to musical success. Guitarist and singer John Hammond Jr. was born into an urbane East Coast family with music business connections, but chose the country blues as a way of life — and considers himself lucky for it. We’ll light a lucky candle of our own on visit to a local shop for spiritual items, as we ask you to listen for the feel good music from Hank Williams, the Staples Singers, Tom Waits and more.


A tribute to mom in music, with spoken sentiments on motherhood from our guests. Alt. rock mama Kristin Hersh talks about caring for her two kids on the road. Lindy Boggs – former congresswoman, New Orleans native, and mother to journalist Cokie Roberts – offers some unique family memories and songs. Zydeco matriarch Queen Ida tell us how she raised a child who would one day play in her band. Also, music from Queen Mothers in jazz, blues and soul, including Ella Fitzgerald, Etta James and Aretha.