LRB Inside-Out: Eight Days a Week

Eight days a week is not enough to show I care.  Last week many of us celebrated the 50thanniversary of The Beatles first US appearance.  Most of the specials on tv and radio featured people spooling one common thread; it changed everything.  It was a craze.  Guitars, records and skinny ties flew off the shelves.  They inspired a generation to wanna hold your hand.

What inspired The Beatles?  Roots and blues music.  Skiffle and folk.  Singer-songwriters.  They took elements of those styles and crafted brilliant pop tunes just the way Stephen Foster (1826-1864) and W.C. Handy (1873-1958) had done before. They are known respectively as the “father of American music” and “father of the blues.” You know their songs if you have a few generations of American in you.

Eighteen of Foster’s compositions were recorded and released on the Beautiful Dreamer: The Songs of Stephen Foster collection. Among the artists who are featured on the album are John Prine,Ron SexsmithAlison KraussYo Yo MaRoger McGuinnMavis Staples, and Suzy Bogguss. The album won the Grammy for Best Traditional Folk Album in 2005. (Wikipedia)

The genre of the blues was a hallmark of American society and culture in the 1920s and 1930s. So great was its influence, and so much was it recognized as Handy’s hallmark, that author F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote in his novel The Great Gatsby that “All night the saxophones wailed the hopeless comment of the “Beale Street Blues” while a hundred pairs of golden and silver slippers shuffled the shining dust. At the gray tea hour there were always rooms that throbbed incessantly with this low, sweet fever, while fresh faces drifted here and there like rose petals blown by the sad horns around the floor.” (Wikipedia)

Sorry to go all former-teacher on you but this weekend is huge to me.  And I love The Beatles.  And I loved Shirley Temple singing “Oh Susanna.”  And I love “Beale Street Blues.”  And I taught The Great Gatsby.  I think it and The Grapes of Wrath are the two most American novels ever written.  And I think those sentiments and the music of those eras is more important and more relevant than ever.

If you agree, or if you just want to see heartfelt performances of these roots of our culture, there is no place to be except Lancaster Roots and Blues this weekend.  We’ve been working eight days a week to make this festival a ground-breaker.  I am ecstatic to help Rich Ruoff stage this epic celebration of our city and our role as the crossroads for genuine roots and blues music every February.  All we need from you right now is to show up with your party-pants on and get down to it.

Eight days a week, I love you.


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