Episode #7 Old-Time Banjo with Dusty Lee Elmer

screen-shot-2016-10-30-at-3-03-41-pmHow cool is this? Super cool. Listen peeps – banjo music makes me smile. So I am really happy to have Dusty on my show. Dusty is a first-rate banjo player and a great guy too. And he knows his shit when it comes to history, too. We get down to business about some of the old stuff and have some laughs about a interpretive take on a modern song…

We discuss:

  • The origins of minstrel banjo style
  • Tracing the instrument back to Africa and its use by slaves on plantations
  • Changes in playing styles in the nineteenth century
  • Banjo music and national identity
  • The social media revolution

Dusty has some of his banjos on hand to offer a few musical selections, so you will want to have a listen and then follow him on Instagram, YouTube, and ReverbNation.

It turns out, Dusty is something of a Civil War guy – so we talked about one of our favorite films and a few important books: Company Aytch by Sam Watkins and Hardtack and Coffee by John D. Billings. What’s more – Dusty has some great advice for aspiring musicians out there…so you had better pay attention!

 


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Music by Advent Chamber Orchestra is licensed under Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/us/

Episode #6 Los Angeles History in Verse with Mike the PoeT

screen-shot-2016-10-23-at-6-41-17-pmI’m stoked because today I got to interview my old friend Mike Sonksen – well known to the world as Mike the PoeT. Mike is a third-generation Angeleno (a rarity in Los Angeles) and is dedicated – through his work as a historian, teacher, writer, and performer – to connecting the many dots that are LA. Mike has published two collections featuring his poetry and extended essays on geography and urban culture: I Am Alive in Los Angeles and most recently, Poetics of Location.  Being an Angeleno myself (sort of…I’ve been here since 1976) it was great to parse through some of these themes with an expert on the city.

We discuss

  • How the disciplines of English and History overlap with the arts
  • The inspiration behind one of Mike’s most well-known poems, I am Alive in Los Angeles
  • Significant changes in the urban landscape sine the 1920s
  • Racial, ethnic, and economic displacements and migrations within the city
  • The gulf between extreme wealth and abject poverty and the unique features of economic disparity in Los Angeles
  • Downtown LA and Hollywood “revitalization” movements

Mike has great advice for aspiring young writers and we talk about one of our favorite movies, Blade Runner. Of course, he had plenty of excellent books on his must read list, including: City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles by Mike Davis, anything by Carey McWilliams (Southern California: An Island on the Land is a good place to start here), and Always Running: La VIda Loca, Gang Days in LA by Luis J. Rodriguez. If you want to learn more about Mike the PoeT, tour the city, or attend a reading, you can find him HERE.

 

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Music by Advent Chamber Orchestra is licensed under Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/us/

Episode #5 Civil War Music with Christian McWhirter

screen-shot-2016-10-17-at-9-50-43-amHave you ever been standing in line at the grocery store and found yourself quietly humming the melody to John Brown’s Body? Or…maybe that’s just me. At any rate, as a Civil War historian the music of the era has always captured my attention – not just as a background to the action but as an important component of each national cause. As such I am really stoked to have Christian McWhirter, author of Battle Hymns: The Power and Popularity of Music in the Civil War, on the show. Christian agrees that music was central to the lives and causes of soldiers and civilians alike.

We discuss:

  • Alternate career paths for academic historians
  • The significance of music in the armies
  • The popularity of particular tunes
  • Music and nationalism
  • Battles of the bands – in history and mythology
  • Music and reconciliation

Christian has great advice to which any student of history should pay great attention, he talks about his blog: Civil War Pop, and he suggests we all read a classic: Fredericksburg! Fredericksburg! by George C. Rable

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Music by Advent Chamber Orchestra is licensed under Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/us/

Episode #4 The Non-Aligned World with Robert Rakove

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Joining me today is Robert Rakove, author of Kennedy, Johnson, and the Non-Aligned World

This episode is pretty much the straight dope on the Kennedy and Johnson administrations and their approach to those places in the world that did not choose sides in the Cold War.

And not for nothing…I throw Rob a couple of surprise questions…which he handles with unmatched skill!

We discuss:

  • What it means when we say “non-aligned”
  • The Eisenhower administration and the spread of communism
  • How Kennedy and his successor, Johnson changed course
  • The repercussions of their approach

Rob has some great advice for students of history, and makes a book rec that I think we all should jump on – Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age by Kevin Boyle

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Music by Advent Chamber Orchestra is licensed under Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/us/