Warming Up

Warming Up

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Music Listening: American Routes

I can’t remember when I first started listening to American Routes but I know it’s been for at least five years.  American Routes is a weekly radio show created by folklorist/musicologist/educator/Guggenheim Fellow Nick Spitzer and the focus is on American music and all of the styles and genres that comprise American music – everything from jazz, rhythm and blues, rock and roll, country, zydeco, blues, gospel, etc.  And since the show is broadcast out of New Orleans, there is often a real focus on New Orleans music and culture. In Philadelphia the show is presented on 90.9 FM WHYY.  The show plays from 2-3pm (a short version) on Saturdays and again on Sundays from 6-8pm – I usually listen on Sundays while we cook and eat dinner.  In the summertime when I like to be outside grilling up dinner, American Routes has become a tradition, the soundtrack to my cooking.  Between the music and the beer I like to drink when grilling, it’s a wonder that I get anything cooked. 

I’ve learned a lot while listening to Nick Spitzer’s show.  He really is a music freak.  There’s probably not a lot of people out there that know as much about American music as Nick and when he conducts his artist interviews he really knows how to get some interesting information out of his guests.  Listening to the show is almost like getting an education in our culture and heritage.  I’ve been tipped off to some wonderful musicians whose music was unfamiliar to me before American Routes.  And I’ve learned more about some artists whose music I already know.  I’ve never heard a bad show and that has to be due to Spitzer’s meticulous research and obvious love of the history and culture that shape American music.  Great music and the opportunity to learn – what’s better than that?

Like me, Nick Spitzer is a University of Pennsylvania alumnus and one day a few years ago I actually got to have lunch with him.  I had so many questions for him but I didn’t want to appear too overzealous so I tried to keep myself in check.  Ever heard that question: if you could have dinner (conversation) with anyone in the world who would it be?  Well, if I could make a list of people with whom I would like to have dinner and an accompanying conversation, Spitzer would certainly be on my list.  He knows so much and has been so close to so many musicians that I admire, I know that I would have lots to ask and there would be a lot to learn.

So if you are in Philly, check out American Routes on WHYY.  If you are elsewhere, check here to see what station near you carries the show.  Here is the link to the Archives of past shows – you can search for musicians and check out their interviews/music.  And so we can keep this post trumpet-related – not a necessity, but what the heck – here is a link to an American Routes interview with Freddie Hubbard.  And here is one with Clark Terry.  And to keep things New Orleans and trumpet-related here’s an interview with Dave Bartholomew (and Fats Domino).


  1. Wow, what a great review! Thanks so much for your support, Bart; we really appreciate it!

    American Routes

  2. No problem, Jason - thanks for reading and thanks for the music!