Friday, 8 April 2016

A musical tone poem for Merle

It’s time to say goodbye to Merle Haggard, who died Wednesday, April 6 – his 79th birthday. Time to appreciate his talent and his perseverance in the face of profound change.

Merle Haggard
We’re going to try to do that on The Big Fat Wide Americana Hour in unique way, in a show that will be posted Saturday.

Haggard was a man who had a rough start in life, did some hard time, then got out of prison, came up with 38 number one hits, and produced good music right to the end of his days.

He was a gifted musician, a fine singer and a vivid songwriter.

Perhaps surprisingly, I think his touch as a songwriter talent shines particularly brightly on his most famous song, “Okie From Muskogee.” Because it might seem at first like a novelty song, and a divisive one at that.

But was actually a unifying song, one that clean-cut hawks and long-haired doves all sang with equal enthusiasm.

That’s because it was a song of nostalgia for a simpler time, in a period of great societal change.
In the Americana Hour show that debuts Saturday, we’ll take a musical look at the life and times of Merle Haggard.

Not too many words. Just a few of Merle’s songs. And a lot of other music – sort of a musical tone-poem, giving a sense of the different eras through with Haggard lived, worked and thrived.

In the end, he came to grips with the changes. They might not have smoked marijuana in Muskogee, but Merle is reported to have smoked plenty himself over the years.

Merle Haggard
And just last year, he issued an album with his good friend Willie Nelson – an old leftie and pot smoker. The album is called Django and Jimmie, and it was a tribute to jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt and Jimmie Rodgers, who’s often called the father of country music.

We’ll hear from that Willie and Merle album, as well. It’s a tip of the hat to the people who influenced them, and without whom they would not have become the musicians they were. 

Just as future musicians will owe their careers to the Hag.

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

A Farewell to Merle

Merle Haggard died today, on his 79th birthday.  He'll be missed.
Merle Haggard
The Hag was much more than the caricature of the mindless patriot who wrote Okie From Muskogie. He was a moving songwriter, a fine singer, a superb musician. A man who had 38 number one hits.

A good man who did hard time and turned his life around. And someone who was an integral part of our times, part of the fabric of our culture. Part of our shared consciousness.

And so tomorrow I will be redoing the edition of The Big Fat Wide Americana Hour I had prepared for Saturday release.

Saturday's show won't be all about Merle. But I need to tip my hat to him, to try to show where he fit into the American musical landscape.
Maybe just two songs -- the first and the last. Bookends.

I want to find a way to say thank you. And I want to find a way to say goodbye.

Thursday, 31 March 2016

Themeless in London

What a wonderful array of musicians we have lined up for this Saturday’s show!
Barb Jungr
I mean, Taj Mahal, Bonnie Raitt, Rosanne Cash, Nat King Cole, Greg Brown, B.B. King, and Barb Jungr …
Barb who? A British jazz singer on an Americana show? What the … ?
Well, I have a confession to make. 
A couple of weeks ago, The Big Fat Wide Americana Hour focused entirely on New Orleans. Then last week, the theme was great covers – remakes of songs that really added something new.
So I promised myself – I swore an oath! – that this week’s show would be themeless. That’s what The Big Fat Wide Americana Hour is all about: We’re not bound by genres or themes. 
We’re motivated only by a desire to hear great American music, whatever the style, right?
So, anyway, I was thinking of songs for this week’s very fine themeless show. And, because I usually include one or two jazz numbers, the Barb Jungr song popped into my head.
And stayed there.
Then, with a start, I asked myself what I could possibly be thinking. This show is about American music. And Barb Jungr is a Brit, for Pete’s sake.
But then it occurred to me that the song that was stuck in my head – Who Do You Love? – was a Bo Diddley song. And you don’t get much more American than Bo Diddley. So why the heck could I not include that song. 
Well, in fact I could.
B.B. King
So, then … the whole idea of Euro-American musical collaborations occurred to me. I thought ofU2 and B.B. King. I thought of Hans Theeskink and Terry Evans. 
And others … including a nice surprise I've included for your listening pleasure.
So, I sort of broke my oath. There is a theme for four or five songs in the middle. But we’re back ranging freely over themeless territory well before the show ends.
The whole darn show this week is a heck of a lot of fun. And if we do have a constant theme, that’s it. Let’s choose great tunes, crank up the volume, get our feet moving, and have a good time.
Your friend,
M.D. Spenser

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Great covers -- a true art

 A myth grew up in the 1960s and '70s -- one that persists, in some quarters, even today. And that is that true artists sing songs they've written. Confessional songs, songs that relatespecifically to their their own lives. 

And the corollary is that anyone with a good voice can produce a good cover of someone else's song. Producing a cover version doesn't require artistry, just a good set of pipes.

Well, this week's show, due out Saturday, is dedicated to dispelling that myth. A wonderful singer can sometimes find more in a song than the songwriter knew was in there. It's an interpretive art -- and the song, instead of being the about a single life, chronicles the lives of us all.

Or else, maybe the singer just knows how to have a heck of a lot of fun.

In any event, join us this week for an hour of great covers -- many of them done by musicians who are great songwriters in their own right. You'll hear songwriters like Little Milton, Dion, Gretchen Peters and Dolly Parton giving their own spin to songs written by others. 

And, I hope, having a darn good, finger-poppin' time while you listen.

See you there -- at ! 

Best wishes,


Little Milton

Dolly Parton

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Around the world in 30 days!

Who could have believed it?

When we started The Big Fat Wide Americana Hour one month ago, the concept was adacious

More than one British radio exec told me it would never work. People like their preferred genre for a reason, they said. Listeners don't want variety. They don't want to hear different stuff. They don't want to hear music they haven't already heard a hundred times before.

Well, guess what? Some people are actually curious. They're stimulated by variety. They like the occasional surprise. They're happy when a radio show introduces them to music they haven't heard before.

The proof? In the first 30 days, The Big Fat Wide Americana Hour has been tuned in by people in 18 countries -- from the U.S. to the U.K., from the Netherlands to New Zealand.

See ... never underestimate people. And never underestimate the power of music. One can only wonder what the next month will hold!

Hear it here:  

It's a success! Onward!

And thanks for listening.


Friday, 18 March 2016

Omission corrected! Nawlins, here we come!

How could it be? 

Five programs into The Big Fat Wide Americana Hour without so much as a nod to New Orleans -- one of the greatest of all American musical cities.

Well, in the show to be released Saturday, March 19, we correct that omission -- and how!

We present a romp though the finest of New Orleans music from past to present. Enjoy Dr. John, Big Mama Thornton, Dr. Michael White, Louis Armstrong ("Well, hello, Dolly ... This is me, Louis!)

Take a trip with us down to the bayou for some swampy rock, blues, rhythm and jazz! All beginning Saturday.

And be sure to drop me a line at I love hearing from y'all!



Monday, 1 April 2013

New Cover Finished!

To my fans,

Great news! The cover for Book 7 of the SHIVERS series is finished. I think it's brilliant! How about you? The book will be available on-line shortly.

All the best,

M.D. Spenser