One or two Saturdays a year, the radio station computer becomes overwhelmed and ornery and attempts to sabotage my show. This was one of those Saturdays. After some initial glitches, I went on the air late and briefly recovered — and then the last chunk of the show refused to air at all. I was pretty bummed; I’d been looking forward all morning to the Swamp Dogg tune coming at the end of my hour.
You get a chance to hear each Saturday’s show every week on the Tuesday rebroadcast — eleven to midnight, Central, on Birmingham Mountain Radio — and tomorrow night I’ll play a corrected version of this Saturday’s program. But in case you’re not awake at that hour, I’m posting the whole show, as it was meant to be heard, right here. Click the link to listen anytime. Share it with your friends. And so on.
Some weeks my radio show has a theme. Other weeks it doesn’t. The unthemed shows try to cover a wide swath of downhome American roots music in its many forms. This one features old-time fiddling, Alabama country brass bands, one-string guitar blues, and conversation with Blind Willie McTell, recorded by John Lomax in 1940 in an Atlanta hotel room. There’s also music by Dan Penn, Link Wray, Peg Leg Sam, Rose Maddox, and the Louvin Brothers, plus a radio broadcast from Hank Williams. Also, that Swamp Dogg. And more.
P.S. / Also:
Since today’s Labor Day, a couple of work songs, as bonus:
If you’ve never seen this video of Lee Dorsey singing “Working in a Coal Mine” in a British record store please watch it.
And lest you think it’s all(!) hokum, I should mention that Lee Dorsey’s life and music was always deeply rooted in work. Dorsey served in the military and, as “Kid Chocolate,” was a successful boxer. He studied auto repair on the G.I. Bill and got work at a garage owned by the New Orleans DJ Eddie the Whip; he made a bunch of records and scored several unforgettable hits (including the song above) and is remembered as one of the great New Orleans singers. In the meantime, he opened his own garage, advertising himself locally as “the best body man in the Ninth Ward.” Internationally revered for his records, he ran the shop up until his death. A lot of Dorsey’s songs — “Work, Work, Work,” “Gotta Find a Job,” and others — dealt with what it was to work, and Dorsey knew what he was singing about.
There are, of course, a ton of coal mining songs out there. A lot of them have come to us by way of Hazel Dickens, one of my musical heroes. Here’s one of them, “Coal Tattoo”:
And here’s a great union song from Hazel:
Maybe next year for Labor Day, I’ll host an hour of work songs, or even an hour of coal mine songs (West Virginia and Kentucky have produced a lot of those, but Birmingham has produced a few of its own as well).
In the meantime, one more time, do check out this show that meant to air on Saturday.
And tune in this Saturday: my guests Joyce and jim Cauthen will talk about Alabama fiddle traditions, play some live tunes in the studio, and share some of their unreleased field recordings of Alabama fiddlers. It’ll be a great time, with no technological glitches.
Thanks, everybody. See you soon.