American Music: Roots and Routes
History, Geography, and Musical Genre
Professor Allen Tullos
e-mail: allen [dot] tullos [at] emory [dot] edu
Office hours via Zoom: Thursdays 2:30-3:30 at https://emory.zoom.us/j/92332359518
And also by appointment.
Fall 2023. HIST 359. AMST 321.e
Monday/Wednesday 2:30-3:45. Bowden Hall 116.
This course satisfies Emory GER: for Area VII HAP (Humanities, Arts, Performance) with Race & Ethnicity Requirement.
American Routes explores the roots and routes of selected musical genres and styles in the U.S., their historical-geographical beginnings, and their cultural meanings.
This course considers major vernacular genres, emblematic performers, song content, audiences, circulation, and preservation. Where, when, and why do musical genres and styles emerge and spread? How does popular music express social history, cultural identities, ranges of feeling, “authenticity,” displacement and mobility, and political critique? Race, ethnicity, class, gender, and spatiality? Genres include: African American spirituals and gospel, the beginnings and early routes of jazz and blues, Appalachian secular and sacred styles, Louisiana Cajun and Zydeco, ‘old time’ and country music, the origins of rock and roll, soul, episodes of protest music, as well as the social contexts of klezmer, conjunto, salsa, rap, and recent ‘singer-songwriter’ styles.
Listening and reading assignments are linked from the course syllabus and/or will be made available on Emory course reserves. Grading is based on attendance and participation, weekly quizzes or written summaries on the reading and listening, a midterm exam, and a final exam.
Check the syllabus regularly (refresh your browser page) for updates and changes.
August 23 Introduction
Some key words for the semester. “Roots” and “routes,” song genres, styles, historical cultural geography; social justice; “folk,” working class, vernacular, and popular musics. Discussion of syllabus and assignments.
- Emory Course Reserves — most of the course readings. Emory ID and Password
- Emory Libraries offers access to the FREE digital version of The New York Times to students, faculty, and staff. Create your account: emorylib.info/NYTimes
- Smithsonian Global Sound
- American Routes radio show from New Orleans, hosted by Nick Spitzer.
- Music Online: American Music Database
- Newport Folk Festival
- kexp radio in Seattle
Motherless Children — Two Tune Families:
Mary Pinckney and Jane Hunter, “Been in the Storm so Long” a spiritual from the Low Country (ca 1967)
Jazmine Sullivan, “Sometimes I Feel like a Motherless Child,” (2022)
Richie Havens, “Freedom” at Woodstock (1969)
The gospel blues of Blind Willie Johnson (1902?-1949): “Motherless Children Have a Hard Time” Johnson, vocal and guitar. Recorded in Dallas, 1927. LYRICS
Roseanne Cash, “Motherless Children” (2009)
Killer Mike, “Motherless” ft. Eryn Allen Kane (2023) LYRICS. Mike talks about the creation of this song.
Archie Shepp and Jason Moran “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child”. (2021) Jazz instrumental version.
August 28 Roots and Routes
Well-travelled songs. Listen to and read about versions of “In the Pines”
Writing Assignment: 250-300 words comparing each of the different versions of “In the Pines.” Consider the singers’ biographical and geographical situations, styles of singing, lyrics, the emotions they evoke, how they adapt the song, the instrumentation, etc. Print your comments and turn in at the end of class.
Read about “In the Pines.” (Wikipedia). This song illustrates themes that the American Routes course pursues about genre and performance style in relation to regional geography, social class, race, and gender.
Today’s lecture will also include versions of “Poor Boy Blues”:
“Poor Boy, Long Ways from Home”. Gus Cannon, (vocals, banjo) with Blind Blake (guitar). (Recorded in Chicago 1927) LYRICS
“Poor Boy Long Ways From Home” Buell Kazee, (vocals, banjo). (Recorded in New York, 1928). LYRICS
“Poor Boy A Long Way From Home” R. L. Burnside. (Independence, Mississippi, 1978) LYRICS
“Poor Boy a Long Way From Home” The Black Keys (2021)
“Last Kind Words”:
Geeshie Wiley and Elvie Thomas “Last Kind Words” (1930) Recorded in Grafton, Wisconsin. LYRICS
Rhiannon Giddens “Last Kind Words” (2015) Minnesota Public Radio.
Kronos Quartet, “Last Kind Words” (2014) The Greene Space, New York City.
August 30 Roots and Routes, continued
Read Stephen Wade’s chapter on Vera Hall from The Beautiful Music All Around Us (2012). Located in e-Reserves for the American Routes course.
September 4 — Labor Day — no class
September 6 Folksong Style and Culture: African American Spirituals and the Carolina Low Country Region
View: Maps of The Transatlantic Slave Trade. Map 1: “Overview of the slave trade out of Africa, 1500-1900.”
Read essay by Lawrence Levine, “Slave Songs and Slave Consciousness.” (PDF available on Emory Course Reserves). Why the spiritual was the most important musical genre to emerge from the experience of slavery in the US?
Read/listen to the materials on the Low Country web page.
Quiz on Levine and Caraway readings (a few short-answer questions about the major points).
For class discussion: Draw upon the Levine and Carawan readings to address why the spiritual was the most important musical genre to emerge from the era of slavery.
In class: YouTube: “Down on Me” (1967) sung by Janis Joplin; versions of “Motherless Children,” “Michael Row the Boat,” other examples of well-travelled songs with roots in nineteenth century African American culture.
Fisk Jubilee Singers recording of “I Couldn’t Hear Nobody Pray” (1909).
Referenced: Slave Songs of the United States (1867). Read about this first and most influential collection of African American Spirituals.
September 11 The “Folk,” Authenticity, Cultural Mediators, and Ballad Mongers
Read for class discussion: Benjamin Filene, “Setting the Stage” (Chap 1 of Romancing the Folk available at Emory Course Reserves. What are key ideas presented by Filene?
Quiz on the Filene chapter.
Pastoral romance and classical music’s use of “folksong”: Ralph Vaughn Williams, “Folk Songs of the Four Seasons Suite: The Sprig of Thyme”.
Listen to some contemporary renderings of the ballad form:
As you read the Filene assignment, begin listening to examples of fiddle tunes and ballads on the Southern Appalachians webpage. Locate a “Child” ballad.
September 13 Song Style and Culture: The Southern Appalachian Region
Continue reading and listening to the materials on the Southern Appalachians webpage.
Read carefully the Wikipedia essay “Appalachian Music.”
Browse: Olive Dame Campbell and Cecil J. Sharp, English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians (1917).
In class discussion of the murder ballad.
The End of an Old Song documentary film by John Cohen, featuring Dillard Chandler, Berzilla Wallin. (1969) “Conversation with Death” begins at 15:09. LYRICS
Barbara Ellen Smith, “The Dispossessions of Appalachia” (2018)
September 18 Southern Appalachian Region
Continue listening to the materials on the Southern Appalachians webpage.
Listening quiz on Low Country Songs, versions of “Motherless,” “Poor Boy a Long Way from Home,” “In the Pines,” the two songs by Vera Hall, ballad examples from September 11.
Identify song, performer(s), and write a few insightful words about the song (eg. genre, geography, significance, etc.)
Old Regular Baptist Church congregation sings “When We Shall Meet” from Mountain Music of Kentucky (1960).
Willie Chapman plays “Little Birdie” on the banjo from Mountain Music of Kentucky (1960).
Carter Family, “No Depression” (1936). LYRICS
Recommended: Bluegrass (Wikipedia)
For further reading (not required):Scott L. Matthews, “John Cohen in Eastern Kentucky: Documentary Expression and the Image of Roscoe Halcomb During the Folk Revival.”
September 20 Affrilachians
Read and listen to the following materials on the Southern Appalachians webpage: “African American Banjo Styles” and “John Henry.”
In class: Scenes from the Terry Zwigoff 1985 documentary film Louie Bluie (Emory Music & Media Library DVD 1510; Also on YouTube) about the life of African American musician Howard “Louie Bluie” Armstrong, a native of LaFollette, Tennessee.
September 25 Some Varieties of Religious Song and the Emergence of Gospel
Listen to the “Genres of Religious Song in Appalachia” section of the Southern Appalachians webpage.
Read: Robert Darden, “The Foundations of Gospel,” People Get Ready! (2004). (Course Reserves)
Quiz on Darden article on “Foundations of Gospel.”
Some examples of songs and performers discussed by Darden:
Arizona Dranes, “Lamb’s Blood Has Washed Me Clean”
Famous Blue Jay Singers of Birmingham, “Clanka A Lanka” (1929?)
Mitchell’s Christian Singers, “Traveling Shoes,”
In class: brief history of vernacular religious song prior to the rise of gospel.
Examples from the 1970s:
Hipster gospel. Tom Waits, “Jesus Gonna Be Here” (1992) LYRICS
For reference: Claudrena N. Harold, “When Sunday Comes: Gospel Music in the Soul and Hip-Hop Eras” (2020)
September 27 Race Records and “Old-Time” Music
Read: Karl Hagstrom Miller, “Race Records and Old-Time Music” (2010) (Available on Emory Course Reserves)
Mamie Smith, “Crazy Blues.” 1920. LYRICS. This is the first commercial recording of blues music by an African-American singer: “Crazy Blues” was composed by Perry Bradford and sold a million copies in its first year.
“Lynching in the US — World War I to II” (wikipedia)
Performers and songs discussed in class and in Miller’s article:
Fiddlin John Carson (1923) “Old Hen Cackled and the Rooster’s Going To Crow”
Fiddlin John Carson’s composition “Ballad of Little Mary Phagan” recorded by his daughter Rosa Lee Carson (“Moonshine Kate”) in 1925. Combines features of the murder ballad with the topical broadside. LYRICS.
Read about Leo Frank and his lynching .
“Soldier’s Joy” Fiddle band dance tune recorded by Gid Tanner and His Skillet Lickers. Atlanta: 1929. Columbia Records. Tanner, fiddle; Clayton McMichen, fiddle, spoken interjections; Riley Pucket, vocal, guitar; Fate Norris, banjo. “Soldier’s Joy” is a well known fiddle piece with origins in eighteenth-century Britain. This popular north Georgia band, whose name typified the self-parody often favored by hillbilly bands, is played with a tangy, wild abandon. The two fiddlers featured here represented strongly contrasting musical impulses: Tanner was a rural, undisciplined hoedown fiddler, while McMichen was a more controlled and eclectic player with a liking for pop music and jazz. They were backed by Riley Puckett, the blind musician from Alpharetta, whose rapid multiple guitar runs were a distinguishing feature of Skillet Lickers recordings.
Example of a popular “hillbilly”drama recording discussed by Miller:
Charlie Poole and His Allegheny Highlanders Trip to New York Parts 3&4
Listen to the differences: Old time string band compared with bluegrass:
Charlie Poole, “Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down” (1925). Old time string band version.
Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs and the Foggy Mountain Boys “Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down” Bluegrass version. (1957). LYRICS.
October 2 The Mississippi Delta and the Birth of the Blues
Listening quiz on selected songs from Southern Appalachians webpage. Be able to give the song title , the names of performer(s), and something significant about the song.
Read: David Evans, “The Development of the Blues” (2002) (Course Reserves)
Listen to songs on the Mississippi Delta webpage.
In class: scenes from Worth Long and Alan Lomax’s documentary film: The Land Where the Blues Began (1979).
Read: Mikko Saikku, “Bioregional Approach to Southern History: The Yazoo-Mississippi Delta. ”
For reference: Charles Reagan Wilson “Mississippi Delta.”
October 4 Authenticity and the Blues
Read: Filene, Chapter 2, “Creating the Cult of Authenticity,” (Course Reserves).
Lead Belly “Mr. Tom Hughes Town” (1934) (1934. Second version, after leaving prison). See Filene, pp. 66-69.
Lead Belly’s Last Sessions (1948) http://search.alexanderstreet.com.proxy.library.emory.edu/glmu/view/work/73313 Play Track 58: “Tom Hughes Town” or “Fannin Street” LYRICS
Track 77: “Rock Island Line”
“Rock Island Line” Lonnie Dongan (1961)
Track 80: “Goodnight Irene”
The Weavers: “Goodnight Irene.” (1950)
Sample: Afro-American Work Songs in a Texas Prison. (1966)
For reference: Dockery Plantation. Visit: Poor Monkey’s, one of the last Delta juke joints.
“Sharecropping in the United States” “Convict Lease System” “Incarceration in the United States”
Composers’ Collective, Workers’ Songbook 1934-35 (2018). See Filene, p. 69.
Alan Lomax: Recording the World (9:24 min).
October 9 — Fall Break — no class
October 11 Regional Styles and Blues Routes
Read: Filene, Chapter 3, “Mastering the Cult of Authenticity,” (Course Reserves).
Quiz on Filene Chapters 2 & 3.
Continue listening to songs on the Mississippi Delta webpage.
Listen to songs on the following webpages: “Texas Blues and Gospel Blues,” “Piedmont Blues,” “Chicago Blues.” Can you distinguish differences between Delta, Piedmont, and Chicago styles?
October 16 Revising the Blues Narrative
Read: Susan McClary,”Thinking Blues” (2000). (Course Reserves)
Quiz on major points of McClary’s chapter.
Mamie Smith —- “Crazy Blues.” LYRICS. This 1920 record is the first commercial recording of blues music by an African-American singer: “Crazy Blues” was composed by Perry Bradford and sold a million copies in its first year.
Bessie Smith, “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out” (1928).
For reference: Brits and Blues:
Rock & Roll – An Unruly History (1995 PBS documentary)
Rock Crossroads Pt 1 A
Pt 1 B (Rolling Stones beginnings, Yardbirds, Clapton on the blues, Eric Burdon leads up to “House of the Rising Sun”)
October 18 Midterm Exam
Material to be covered includes the assigned readings, a selected list of songs in bold green font drawn from the listening assignments, as well material from the class lectures. The midterm will consist of music listening identifications (give song title, artist, and significance), as well as short-answer and fill-in-the-blank questions.
October 23 The Old Wave: Ethnic Roots and Routes from Tin Pan Alley to Broadway
Read and listen to the “Klezmer” materials at “Ethic Roots and Routes“ page.
“Sher (A minor)” Steven Greenman, first violin; Alicia Svigals, second violin; Walter Zev Feldman, cimbal or hammer dulcimer. (2000) This old dance tune was published in Brooklyn in 1916 in Hebrew Wedding Melodies.
Dobriden (G minor) Steven Greenman, first violin; Alicia Svigals, second violin; Walter Zev Feldman, cimbal or hammer dulcimer. (2000) This piece, which dates from the mid nineteenth century, was used either on the morning of a wedding or after the wedding to honor the members of the bride’s family or the bride and groom themselves. Dobridens were display pieces created by talented klezmorim that used a 3/4 rhythmic structure with a peculiar rhythmic formula at the close of phrases.
Budapest Klezmer Band (2013)
Yiddish Theatre. 12:39
Black Music and Jewish Music. 1:25
Gershwin “Swanee” (1919)
Gershwin Rhapsody in Blue 1924
Clarinet opening for “Rhapsody in Blue” (1945) Orchestra led by Oscar Levant.
Cole Porter. 3:01
From Lebanon to the sound of surf music:
“Miserlou” by Dick Dale (1963) Read about “Miserlou”
“Wipeout” the Sufaris (1963).
John Jeremiah Sullivan, “Folk Like Us: Rhiannon Giddens and the evolving legacy of black string-band music” (2019) (Emory e-Reserves)
“There Is No Other,” Rhiannon Giddens and Francesco Turrisi (2019)
October 25 The Beginnings of Jazz and the Life of Louis Armstrong
Read a short diatribe against jazz from the 1921 Ladies Home Journal. Anne Shaw, “Does Jazz Put the Sin in Syncopation?” (Course Reserves)
Read the following three chapters from Lawrence Bergreen’s biography Louis Armstrong. (Course Reserves):
Chapter 4, “Coal Cart Blues”; Chapter 5, “Hotter than That”; and Chapter 6, “Lazy River.”
Recommended: Louis Armstrong Centennial Show on American Routes Radio devoted to Armstrong and his influences. Follow the show on the Playlist.
In class: excerpts from film documentary Jazz (2000) that follow Armstrong’s emergence as one of the most original, influential, and widely known musicians of the twentieth century. Louis Armstrong and Jazz Available with your Emory ID and Password at the following link: Jazz series.
Louis Armstrong thread:
Episode 1: begin at 37:37 and go to 47:08
Episode 2: begin at 12:01 and go to 22:30
Episode 2: begin at 47:55 and go to 59:10
Episode 4: begin at 14:21 and go to 31:20
Episode 9: begin at 39:50 and go to 50:44
October 30 South by Southwest: Creolization
Read: Patrick B. Mullen, pages 170-192 of his chapter “Come Back to Texas: From ‘Bogalusa Boogie’ to ‘Soy Chicano.’ (2018) (Course e-reserves) .
In class: documentary film on the Savoy family of Eunice, Louisiana, Cajun musicians. [YouTube}
and excerpts from Chulas Fronteras (1976)
Quiz on Mullen’s essay and on identifying the following four songs.
“Acadian One Step.” Early Cajun recording. Joe Falcon, accordian; Cleoma Breaux Falcon, guitar; Ophy Breaux, fiddle; unknown, triangle. Recorded in Atlanta, 1929. Joe Falcon (1900-1965) and his wife Cleoma Breaux (d. 1941) made the first Cajun music record (“Allons a Lafayette”) for Columbia in 1928. Falcon and Breaux’s recordings were extremely popular in Louisiana and opened up the Cajun record market. Cleoma was the vocalist on their recordings. Falcon played accordion for dances and cajun fais do-dos in his home area.
“Jolie Blonde.” Hackberry Ramblers, recorded in New Orleans, 1936. Luderin Darbone, fiddle; Lennis Sonnier, guitar and vocal; Wayne Perry, fiddle; Julius “Papa Cairo” Lamperez, guitar. The most popular Cajun band of the mid-1930s, the Hackberry Ramblers, led by fiddler Luderin Darbone from Evangeline, were a progressive group that incorporated influences from mainstream country music, western swing, and blues. “Jolie Blonde,” often referred to as the Cajun national anthem was the Ramblers most popular recording. In 1946, Harry Choates became the first Cajun performer to have an impact on commercial country music with his hit recording of the song as “Jole Blon.” Source: Le Gran Mamou, Vol. I. (Country Music Foundation, 1990).
“Zydeco Sont Pas Salé“ Clifton Chenier, piano accordion and vocal. (ca 1992) Chenier did not invent zydeco, but he defined it with every performance. The expression, “les haricots son pas salés” (the snap beans ain’t salty), is apparently a reference to hard times and the music and dance that helped people deal with them. Source: Cajun Music and Zydeco, Rounder Records, 1992.
“La Danse De Mardi Gras.” Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys. Since the late 1980s, Riley and his group have earned a reputation as one of the premier bands playing the traditional Cajun repertoire, bringing the old songs to enthusiastic audiences in dancehalls and on stages around the world, and more recently writing original material that carries the tradition forward. Their interpretation of the minor-key “La Danse de Mardi Gras,” one of the oldest Cajun songs, shows how powerful and plaintive this music can be. Source: Louisiana Spice: 25 Years of Louisiana Music on Rounder Records, 1995.
November 1 From HIllbilly to Country Music
Jimmy Wakely and Margaret Whiting — “Slipping Around” (1949) A pop cover version.
November 6 Memphis and the Emergence of Rock ‘n Roll:
Quiz on Lipsitz essay. And be able to identify the following songs and performers:
Elvis Presley, “That’s All Right” (1954)
Elvis Presley, “Heartbreak Hotel” (1956)
AND Listen to songs on “Memphis” website.
November 8 Rock and Youth Culture in the 1960s and ’70s
Read: George Lipsitz, “Who’ll Stop the Rain” (1994). (Course Reserves).
On YouTube, listen to songs mentioned by Lipsitz.
November 13 Origins of Hip Hop
Read: Tricia Rose, “All Aboard the Night Train,” (1994). (Course reserves)
Quiz upon Rose’s chapter. The social and cultural context out of which the musical form “rap” emerged.
Deep background in African American oral traditions, toasts, boasting talk. From the documentary, The Land Where the Blues Began, locate “The Signifying Monkey”
Begin video at approx. 54:30
Hip Hop history. VH1. Part 1 (“And You Don’t Stop)
November 15 Uneasy Listening: Badlands, Alt Tracks, and Dirty Boulevards
Read: David P. Szatmary, “The Generation X Blues.” (2010). (Course Reserves)
Listen to Szatmary’s examples on YouTube, Spotify, etc.
Read: Riot Girl scene
Grace Elizabeth Hale, “An Unlikely Utopia: Athens, Georgia, in Reagan’s America” (2020)
November 20 Protest Songs and Social Justice
Read “Protest Songs in the United States” (Wikipedia)
Scenes from Episode 4 of Eyes on the Prize
John Coltrane “Alabama” (1963) Written in response to the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing on September 15, 1963, an attack by the Ku Klux Klan in Birmingham, Alabama, that killed four African-American girls.
Another song in reaction to the Birmingham church bombing: Nina Simone performs “Mississippi Goddam.” (1964)
Excerpt from Bob Dylan’s memoir Chronicles (2004)
November 22 Thanksgiving Holiday — no class
November 27 Hip Hop Geographies
Browse: Kelefa Sanneh, “Hip Hop,” chapter in his book Major Labels (2021). (Course Reserves)
Listen to Terri Gross interview with Jay-Z, and discussion of Decoded.
Recommended reading: Matt Miller, “Dirty Decade: Rap Music and the US South” (2008)
Atlanta’s Ever-Shifting Hip-Hop Scene, NY Times, July 2015. (Emory Libraries offers access to the FREE digital version of The New York Times to students, faculty, and staff. Create your account: emorylib.info/NYTimes )
Killer Mike, “Motherless” (2023)
Jay-Z video biography
“Sociologist Tricia Rose on Hip Hop as a Global Profit Powerhouse” (2023)
Holly Hobbs, “‘I Used That Katrina Water To Master My Flow’: Rap Performance, Disaster, and Recovery in New Orleans” (2015)
November 29 and December 4 All Over the Maps: Singing Ourselves
Write and print out: 250-300 words about a song that has been meaningful to you. Be sure to discuss performer(s), genre, and relevant social and cultural contexts. (Be prepared to present your commentary in class.)
Bring your laptops to class. We will also do reviewing for the final exam and course evaluations.
Final Exam. Monday, December 11. 3:00 -5:30 p.m.
Although somewhat longer, the format for the final exam will be same as for the midterm and will cover the material from assigned reading, lectures, and listening (selected songs in bold green font) since October 18. The exam will consist of music listening identifications (give song title, artist, and significance), as well as short-answer and fill-in-the-blank questions.