Archive for the ‘Shows’ Category

Live From the DNC Protests in Philly

Friday, July 29th, 2016

Earlier this week Ernesto Gomez and I traveled to Philadelphia to attend and to cover the protests at the Democratic National Convention.  I made the audio piece included here and took some photos.  Ernesto took many photos as well as some great video:

My audio piece combines interviews with protesters and activists, sounds of the protests and music from musicians marching in the demonstrations. It is meant to convey what it was like being there.

We attended marches protesting climate change, in support of Bernie Sanders and against war and racism.  We also attended and covered the Socialist Convergence which was happening alongside the DNC protests.  This convergence brought together activists in order to strategize about how to build on the momentum generated by the Sanders campaign.

All of our photos can be seen at: This Link

– Eli Smith

If you are having trouble with the podcast audio player above, please use this player:

These masks represent the faces of people killed in U.S. drone strikes.

From the Archives…

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014
Hello everybody,

Well, I’ve been swamped by some other projects – working as ever on the Brooklyn Folk Festival and Washington Square Park Folk Festival, editing a book with the working title, “An Oral History of Folk Music in New York: 1940’s – 60’s,” producing a box set for Dust to Digital Records (more info on that later…), working with Jalopy Records and playing and recording a whole lot with my old time string band the Down Hill Strugglers, as well as teaching, on and on.  Between all that stuff Down Home Radio is on a bit of a hiatus, but look for it to come back strong this Fall!  Meanwhile, I thought I would post up links to some episodes from the archives.  This show has been going on for 8 years, so there’s a lot of great stuff back there!

Here are a bunch of past episode you might like:

Interview with David “Honeyboy” Edwards

Roots of Woody Guthrie

Interview with Robert Crumb

Interview with Clifton Hicks

Interview with George Gibson

A Walk Around Clifftop

Interview with Mike Seeger

The New Lost City Ramblers: 50 Years – Interview with John Cohen & Tom Paley

Best of the Down Home “Awesome Out of Print Records” series vol. 1

Interview with The Otis Brothers

Interview with The Carolina Chocolate Drops

Interview with Pete Seeger – Down Home Turns 1!

Interview with Jeffrey Lewis

Interview with Rahzel & The Roots of Rap

Songs That Inspired Bob Dylan Parts 1 & 2

Interview with David “Dawg” Grisman

John Cohen, Peter Stampfel, Mark Bingham – Live Interview and Performance

Henrietta and Eli Interview Elijah Wald

Henrietta and Eli Interview Joe Hickerson

Henrietta on Pre-Columbian Indian Music of Mexico & Guatemala

Henrietta Interviews Alan Lomax about Leadbelly

Remembering Henrietta Yurchenco – Leadbelly & Woody Guthrie Live on WNYC, 1940!

Bluegrass, Old Time and Country Music Studies at ETSU

Monday, June 24th, 2013
On today’s show I speak with Ed Snodderly and Roy Andrade, musicians and professors in Eastern Tennessee State University’s “Bluegrass, Old Time and Country Music Studies” program.  ETSU is the only place in the world where you can get an undergraduate degree in Bluegrass, Old Time and Country Music, and I speak with Ed, a songwriter and Roy, an old time string band musician (with the Reeltime Travelers) about the history of the program and their great work with all of their fine students!  I also play recordings of their music, and of the music that they teach and play with their students.  Ed is the founder and owner of an amazing venue in Johnson City, TN called “The Down Home” and we also hear from him about how he got that venue started.

Interview with Boo Hanks and Dom Flemons

Monday, October 15th, 2012

On today’s show I speak with Piedmont blues guitarist and singer Boo Hanks and multi-instrumentalist Dom Flemons of the Carolina Chocolate Drops.  They have a new album out on the Music Maker label entitled, “Buffalo Junction” and I caught up with them recently before their show at Joe’s Pub in Manhattan.

I speak with Boo and Dom about their influences, style and collaboration over the last several years.  We delve into Boo Hanks’ early history growing up on the Virginia – North Carolina border, the “Piedmont” area where his distinctive style of guitar comes from and where he was born 84 years ago.  Boo learned guitar from his father but was most attracted the style of Blind Boy Fuller and cites him as his primary musical influence.  Boo has worked as a farmer for his entire life, raising his many children on their family farm, and playing guitar for country dances and functions.  Over the past several years he has toured extensively, performing his excellent country blues music for audiences around the United States and Europe.

We thank our sponsor, the Old Time Herald Magazine – a magazine dedicated to Old Time Music.  Subscribe today at:

Roots of Woody Guthrie: Celebrating Woody at 100

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

July 14th, 2012 will mark the 100th birthday of the great songwriter, author and artist Woody Guthrie.  On today’s show we’ll honor Guthrie by playing a number of his songs and taking a look at some of the sources for the melodies he used and influences on the style in which he played and sang.

Guthrie is best known as author of “This Land Is Your Land,” but in fact wrote thousands of songs, as well as autobiographical novels, poetry, and humorous op-ed news pieces.  He was also a fine visual artist as well as a rambling man, having traveled through out the United States and also Europe and Africa during in his time in the Merchant Marines during WWII.

There have been a number of books about his life and a film based on his book “Bound for Glory,” numerous reissues of his recordings, tribute albums and cover versions of his songs in a number of styles, but I’ve found that the least explored area of his work are his actual musical sources and style.

Woody Guthrie wrote very few original melodies, he took melodies of old time songs, folk and other songs and rewrote them with his own words to make them his own and into the songs we know today.  Most songwriters who claim Guthrie as an influence today do not perform in a style related to Guthrie’s old time style, but instead focus on his lyrics and a some notion of his politics and perform Guthrie’s songs and their own songs in a singer songwriter rock/pop based style.

Woody Guthrie was a great folk singer and had great taste in the songs that he used to base his own songs.  He loved the Carter Family as well as apparently many other old time musicians that made 78rpm records in the years before WWII.  Guthrie is pictured below with J.E. and Wade Mainer of the famous and influential old time string band “Mainer’s Mountaineers.”

By making these juxtapositions of Guthrie’s songs and their sources (probably Guthrie’s favorite pieces) I hope to place Guthrie aesthetically as an old time / “hill billy” musician much like the other performers featured on today’s show.

These are recordings that Woody either enjoyed or I think would have enjoyed, so here’s wishing Woody a happy 100th birthday and I hope you will enjoy the program.

Here is a list of all the tracks played on today’s show.  Each Guthrie song is followed by its source:

Intro music: Cowboy Waltz (Guthrie on fiddle)
1. This Land is Your Land – Woody Guthrie
2. When the World’s On Fire – The Carter Family
3. So Long, Its Been Good to Know Yuh – Woody Guthrie
4.  Billy the Kid – Vernon Dalhart
5. Pretty Boy Floyd – Woody Guthrie
6. Utah Carroll – Cartwright Brothers
7. 1913 Massacre – Woody Guthrie
8. Irish Soldier and the English Lady – Neil Morris
9. The Ludlow Massacre – Woody Guthrie
10. East Virginia Blues – The Carter Family
11. Ramblin’ Round – Woody Guthrie
12. Goodnight Irene – Leadbelly
13. Do Re Mi – Woody Guthrie
14. Hang Out the Front Door Key – The Blue Sky Boys
15. Two Good Men (Sacco and Vanzetti) – Woody Guthrie
16. Poor Howard – Leadbelly
17. I’ve Got to Know – – Woody Guthrie
18. Farther Along – Roy Acuff
19. Phildelphia Lawyer (Reno Blues) – Woody Guthrie
20. The Jealous Lover – The Stanley Brothers
21. The Sinking of the Reuben James – Woody Guthrie
22. Wildwood Flower – The Carter Family
23. Union Maid (Live Excerpt) – Woody Guthrie
24. Redwing – Riley Puckett
Outro Music – Wildwest Rambler by the Crowder Brothers. Once while speaking with the great folklorist Archie Green, he asked me to name examples of old records the prefigured Guthrie’s style.  This is one, sounds like Woody and Cisco to me.

P.S. I realized that I should have included “Pastures of Plenty” in this program, which is based on the melody of the folk song “Pretty Polly.”  And how could I forget “Tom Joad” based on the melody of “John Hardy!”  There are probably others that I missed too!

P.P.S.  Don’t forget to check out:

Woody Guthrie on live on WNYC with Leadbelly in 1940

The program was produced for WNYC in 1940 by Down Home Radio co-founder Henrietta Yurchenco.  The recording of the broadcast was discovered in 2006, at which time I went down to the archives and picked up a CD dub of it from archivist Andy Lanset.  Down Home Radio rebroadcast it for the first time in 67 year in 2007 with commentary by Yurchenco.

l to r: Eugene Rector, Woody Guthrie, Fred Smith, J.E. Mainer, Cisco Houston, Wade Mainer, at the BBC Studios New York. September 11, 1944.

More Thoughts on Woody Guthrie:

The scope of Guthrie’s work identifies him as a Popular Front era public intellectual and his influence on generations of artists, mostly song writers, continues to this day.  Woody Guthrie was incredibly prolific, especially considering the brevity of his career, cut short by the hereditary Huntington’s Disease that disabled him by the mid 1950’s and took his life in 1967.

Guthrie came from a middle class family in what was then the young state of Oklahoma , having been (more…)

Joe Thompson (1918-2012)

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

[Photo by E. Smith, June 2010.]

On Monday February 20th, Joe Thompson passed away at the age of 93.  He was considered to be the last living traditionally schooled African-American fiddler.

On a beautiful day in early June of 2010 my band The Dust Busters paid a visit to the home of Joe and Polly Thompson.  Joe Thompson lived outside of Mebane, NC.  He started playing fiddle at 5 years old, way back in 1923.  Joe was a World War II veteran and was long retired from his job at a furniture factory.  He continued to play music until very recently at home and at gigs including taking his music to Carnegie Hall in New York City, the National Folk Festival and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., and the International Music Festival in Brisbane, Australia.  In 2007 Joe Thompson was honored with the National Heritage Fellowship award from the National Endowment for the Arts.  The Carolina Chocolate Drops have spent a lot of time with Joe and have learned a lot from him.  They continue to present many of his tunes in their performances.  Joe Thompson was a wonderful man and a very fine musician and singer, the likes of whom we will not see again.

His recordings are available.  Here are a few:

Joe Thompson: Family Tradition
Black Banjo Songsters of N Carolina & Virginia
Carolina Chocolate Drops & Joe Thompson

Click Here for the recording and interview I did with Joe Thompson in June of 2010 when we visited him at his home.

Here is a link to a nice obituary:
Joe Thompson, 1918-2012: County treasure, irreplaceable artist left lasting legacy

And clips from a film made about Joe:

David “Honeyboy” Edwards (1915 – 2011)

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

Today we mourn the loss of David “Honeyboy” Edwards, one of the greatest blues musicians there ever was.  Honeyboy was an incredible talent in his guitar playing, singing, songwriting and also with his rack harmonica playing (see his 1979 Folkways album, “Mississippi Delta Bluesman” as well as his very first recordings made by Alan Lomax in Clarkesdale, MS, 1942, among many others.)  Honeyboy was not only an amazing artist but also through his longevity became the last living link to the world of the old Deep South that created the Folk-Blues.  That world was a small world, and many of the people that created the blues knew one another.  Honeyboy counted as friends and musical associates Big Joe Williams, Tommy Johnson, Robert Johnson, Charley Patton, The Memphis Jugband and others and undoubtedly ranked among them as one of blues music’s great practitioners.  With his passing the kind of deep feeling and subtle mode of expression that he lived and breathed in his music leaves the world a diminished place.

On today’s show we revisit my extended interview with Honeyboy which we recorded when he came to play at BB King’s club in New York in 2006.  I picked up Honeyboy and his manager and harmonica player Michael Frank at La Guardia Airport and drove them back to Michael’s brothers house on the Upper West Side.  Once there we relaxed in the living room and Honeyboy and I recorded this interview.  He was easygoing and easy to talk with and very generous with his time to speak with me, just a kid.  I knew Honeyboy and Michael from when I had booked them a couple of years before to play at the Oberlin College Folk Festival and felt lucky to be able to reconnect with them in New York.

In this interview Honeyboy reveals many fascinating insights, vignettes and critical information gathered during his 80+ years as a professional musician. He talks about his days playing in Memphis with the Memphis Jug Band (plus how to blow a jug and build a tub bass) and Big Walter Horton, living and playing in the Mississippi Delta and then Chicago with all the greats there, how to hop a 1930’s freight train and get away with it as well as lots more.

I used the interview as a chance also to play a number of my favorite recordings by Honeyboy, as well as recordings by many of his musical associates he mentions, to give listeners not already familiar with his work and milieu a better understanding of his life and music.

For a brief account of his extraordinary life, see the below obituary from the New York Times.  For more I highly recommend his autobiography The World Don’t Owe Me Nothin’ and the excellent documentary film about his life, “Honeyboy.”

Check out his websites: Honeyboy Edwards & Earwig Records

Below is the obituary that appeared in today’s New York Times:

Published: August 29, 2011

David Honeyboy Edwards, believed to have been the oldest surviving member of the first generation of Delta blues singers, died on Monday at his home in Chicago. He was 96.

His death was announced by his manager, Michael Frank.

Mr. Edwards’s career spanned nearly the entire recorded history of the blues, from its early years in the Mississippi Delta to its migration to the nightclubs of Chicago and its emergence as an international phenomenon.

Over eight decades Mr. Edwards knew or played with virtually every major figure who worked in the idiom, including Charley Patton, Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf. He was probably best known, though, as the last living link to Robert Johnson, widely hailed as the King of the Delta Blues. The two traveled together, performing on street corners and at picnics, dances and fish fries during the 1930s.

“We would walk through the country with our guitars on our shoulders, stop at people’s houses, play a little music, walk on,” Mr. Edwards said in an interview with the blues historian Robert Palmer, recalling his peripatetic years with Johnson. “We could hitchhike, transfer from truck to truck, or, if we couldn’t catch one of them, we’d go to the train yard, ’cause the railroad was all through that part of the country then.” He added, “Man, we played for a lot of peoples.”

Mr. Edwards had earlier apprenticed with the country bluesman Big Joe Williams. Unlike Williams and many of his other peers, however, Mr. Edwards did not record commercially until after World War II. Field recordings he made for the Library of Congress under the supervision of the folklorist Alan Lomax in 1942 are the only documents of Mr. Edwards’s music from his years in the Delta.

Citing the interplay between his coarse, keening vocals and his syncopated “talking” guitar on recordings like “Wind Howling Blues,” many historians regard these performances as classic examples of the deep, down-home blues that shaped rhythm and blues and rock ’n’ roll.

Mr. Edwards was especially renowned for his intricate fingerpicking and his slashing bottleneck-slide guitar work. Though he played in much the same traditional style throughout his career, he also enjoyed the distinction of being one of the first Delta blues musicians to perform with a saxophonist and drummer.

David Edwards was born June 28, 1915, in Shaw, Miss., in the Delta region. His parents, who worked as sharecroppers, gave him the nickname Honey, which later became Honeyboy. His mother played the guitar; his father, a fiddler and guitarist, performed at local social events. Mr. Edwards’s father bought him his first guitar and taught him to play traditional folk ballads.

His first real exposure to the blues came in 1929, when the celebrated country bluesman Tommy Johnson came to pick cotton at Wildwood Plantation, the farm near Greenwood where the Edwards family lived at the time. (more…)

Interview with Pat Conte Part 1

Thursday, July 7th, 2011
[Pat Conte plays banjo at the Jalopy Theater, photo E. Smith]

There’s a great new interview/radio broadcast out with record collector and musician Pat Conte, as interviewed by  John Heneghan for his excellent internet radio show, “John’s Old Time Radio Show.” Conte talks about his years of record collecting and plays treasures from his collection.  Great interview, great show!

CLICK HERE to listen to the show

I should also note that Pat Conte is an amazing musician on banjo, fiddle and guitar.  He has a new album out, it’s great!

The first album released by Jalopy Records in an edition of 500 red vinyl copies with liner notes insert. 

“The Jalopy Theatre and School of Music proudly presents Pat Conte in the release of ‘American Songs with Fiddle and Banjo,’ the debut album of the brand new label, Jalopy Records. Pat Conte, a longtime musician and collector of world folk music (producer of The Secret Museum of Mankind series on Yazoo Records) has put together fourteen tunes, specifically arranged for the fiddle and banjo. The record spans old-time, primitive blues and archaic songs to celebrate the harmonious and traditional pairing of these instruments in American music. … Conte has performed with dozens of bands, most notably The Otis Brothers, Major Contay and the Canebrake Rattlers and The Empire State String Ticklers.” – Jalopy

You can download it on CDbaby:

Or better yet buy it direct from Jalopy on an awesome 33rpm red vinyl record:
CLICK HERE to go the Jalopy Records online store.

Interview with Robert Crumb

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

[Crumb interviewed by Eli Smith.  Photo by Eden Brower, 2010]

On today’s show I speak with Robert Crumb.  R. Crumb is best known as a cartoonist and illustrator, but what a lot people don’t know about him is that he is a very talented old-time mandolin player and a very serious collector of 78rpm records!  I caught up with Robert Crumb at John and Eden (The East River String Band)’s apartment over on the Lower East Side in Manhattan.  We had a good talk about Crumb’s interest in the old music and his early experiences finding old 78rpm records in the same junk shops where he searched for old comics as a kid. He has traveled extensively in search of records! meeting interesting personalities in strange places, from Delaware and Cleveland all the way to Argentina and Uruguay.  Robert Crumb plays live on the show together with Eden and John’s East River String Band.

Tracks played on today’s episode (a lot of this stuff has never been reissued!):
Thanks to John Heneghan for supplying much of the music for this program.

Shook It Up This Morning –  Joe Evans & McClain
KWKA Blues – Eddie & Sugar Lou’s Hotel Tyler Orchestra
Happy Days & Lonely Nights – Charlie Fry And His Million Dollar Pier Orchestra
Ginseng Blues – The Kentucky Ramblers
Sacalelo Desparejo – Trio Odeon (Iriate/Pesoa/Pagez)
Your Soul Never Dies – Smith’s Carolina Crackerjacks
Risonha – Luperce Miranda
Farethee Blues – East River Stringband w/ R. Crumb
Hy Patillion – East River Stringband w/ R. Crumb

And don’t forget to check out our good friends at the Old Time Herald – lots of great articles, reviews and more!

Interview with Jody Stecher

Monday, November 1st, 2010

[Jody Stecher (R) with Hank Bradley (L) at the Berkeley Old Time Music Convention 2006.  Photo by E. Smith]

On today’s show I speak with one of my all time favorite musicians, Jody Stecher.  Jody is a master of many instruments- banjo, guitar, fiddle, mandolin, oud, sarod and sursingar and is a very fine singer.  I caught up with him at his apartment in San Francisco where he lives with his wife and singing partner Kate Brislin.  Since I recorded this interview I’ve had several listeners write into the show requesting an interview with Jody and I’m happy to finally be bringing it out on Down Home Radio! Jody Stecher is originally from Brooklyn, NY and was involved from a young age in the folk music scene in Greenwhich Village back in the early 60’s.  Since the late 1960’s he has lived in the Bay Area where he remains a very active and respected musician in the world of folk, old-time and bluegrass music as well as Indian classical music.  He currently plays with Peter Rowan in Rowan’s bluegrass band and has just this year released a new album with Kate.  Its great!  Check it out.

On the show we discuss Stecher’s influences, his time in the old Village folk scene, his musical activities out in California and more!  Jody was a student of Down Home Radio founder Henrietta Yurchenco when she taught Ethnomusicology at City College back in the 60’s.  Jody accompanied Henrietta on a field recording trip to Michoacan, MX in 1965 which resulted in the classic album “The Real Mexico” on the Nonesuch Explorer Series.  In the same year Stecher traveled together with Peter K. Siegel to Nassau Bahama to record Joseph Spence and the Pinder Family which resulted in another classic album “The Real Bahamas,” also for the Nonesuch Explorer Series, check ’em out!

Big thanks go to Steve French for editing this interview for airplay.

Check out Jody and Kate’s new CD

Some photos: (more…)