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It’s Labor Day weekend, and time to go back to school! Many of the lessons learned in school are valuable, but more often people carry their memories of great teachers, friends and growing up to think for themselves. Likewise, much of America’s greatest music — blues, jazz, country, Cajun — was passed on informally from master players, in clubs, at jam sessions or dances. We’ll visit two special professors who really believe in teaching the musical vernacular both formally and informally. Ray Charles shows kids how to play the blues at his Los Angeles studio, and trumpeter Wynton Marsalis tutors New Orleans high school students in jazz technique and appreciation. We’ll also talk to the all-teen Cajun band from French Louisiana, Feufollet, about why they learned to play traditional music. Plus, tune in to children’s songs and back-to-school anthems from Chuck Berry, Louis Armstrong, Willie Nelson and Aretha Franklin.


Get out of your late August funk by hearing some cool blues live in the studio with Mississippi’s Big Jack Johnson on guitar. And keep cool in conversation with elder dudes of the California surf scene regarding the aesthetics of their sport and the music that goes with it. Also shark tales from Belize’s reef islands, and songs that keep an ear on summer.


On the 25th anniversary of his death, Elvis Presley is remembered. Exclusive interviews with bandmates DJ Fontana, Scotty Moore, producer Sam Phillips, and biographer Peter Guralnick focus on the social and cultural interactions unique to Memphis and the Deep South that sparked Elvis’ musical explosiveness. The songwriting team of Leiber & Stoller talk about working with Elvis on their compositions “Hound Dog” and “Jailhouse Rock,” and guitarist James Burton describes the Vegas years. Memphis R&B great Rufus Thomas describes the complex relationship many black musicians had to Elvis, and rockabilly queen Wanda Jackson says the king of rock ‘n’ roll was a perfect gentleman on their dates.


Summer is the time to enjoy music in the great outdoors. We’ll visit some festivals around the country, including the venerable National Folk Festival, which takes place in Bangor, Maine this August, and the Freedom Creek Festival, organized by bluesman Willie King in Aliceville, Alabama. Plus music from legendary gatherings like the Newport Folk & Jazz Festivals, the Monterey Pop Festival, and Montreaux. Grab a blanket and picnic basket, and turn up the radio.