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NPR Radio Diaries

ChrisJBrady 23 Nov 11 - 11:06 AM
GUEST,Hootenanny 23 Nov 11 - 11:25 AM
Janie 23 Nov 11 - 05:27 PM
GUEST,Hootenanny 24 Nov 11 - 03:03 PM
Janie 24 Nov 11 - 11:04 PM
Acme 25 Nov 11 - 10:27 AM
GUEST,Hootenanny 26 Nov 11 - 05:22 AM
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Subject: NPR Radio Diaries
From: ChrisJBrady
Date: 23 Nov 11 - 11:06 AM

Friends of NPR Radio Diaries,

We want to let you know about our latest documentary. It's kind of strange and beautiful. And it may be the first story in history to segue from Bach to ZZ Top.

Please tune in to NPR's All Things Considered today (11/23/11) at 4:30 PM Eastern. Or listen at our (brand new!) website:

Thanks for listening.
Joe Richman, Radio Diaries


Seventy-five years ago today, Robert Johnson cut his first tunes. Pablo Casals did the same thing across the pond. They created two sets of recordings that changed the musical worlds in which they were operating.

Samara Freemark and Joe Richman have produced a radio documentary on this amazing coincidence. It airs this afternoon. You can listen on line.



November 23, 1936, was a good day for recorded music. Two men - an ocean apart - each sat before a microphone and began to play. One was a cello prodigy who had performed for the Queen of Spain; the other played guitar and was a regular in the juke joints of the Mississippi Delta. And 75 years ago, Pablo Casals and Robert Johnson each made recordings that would change music history.


Produced by Joe Richman and Samara Freemark of Radio Diaries with editors Deborah George and Ben Shapiro.

Thanks to author Paul Elie (who led us to this idea), musician Scott Ainslie, and Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top. Also thanks to Brendan Baker who put together the Robert Johnson-Pablo Casals mash-up that ends our story. You can hear the entire song, as well as the original 1936 recordings of Robert Johnson and Pablo Casals at our website.

Lastly, we wanted to take a moment to remember and celebrate the long and wonderful musical careers of blues guitarist Honeyboy Edward and cellist Bernard Greenhouse. Both men died this year, not long after we interviewed them for this story.

169 Avenue A #13 | New York, NY 10009 US


Other Diaries can be found here:


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Subject: RE: NPR Radio Diaries
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 23 Nov 11 - 11:25 AM

That sounds like some hell of a claim for Robert Johnson that he changed music history. I think somebody has fallen for all the hype.
Robert Johnson as good as he was, was one in a chain of many blues singers and he like most was influenced by others before him. What did he do to change music history?


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Subject: RE: NPR Radio Diaries
From: Janie
Date: 23 Nov 11 - 05:27 PM

I listened on the way home from work, CJB. Good job!

Listen to the show, Hootenanny, and you will understand what they mean.

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Subject: RE: NPR Radio Diaries
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 24 Nov 11 - 03:03 PM

Thank you for your advice Janie but I don't waste my time listening to more bullshit. Watching a TV programme last week where the presenter visited "The actual cross roads" where Robert obtained his amazing guitar skills will last me for a while. Just the latest pile of rubbish that has been spewed out for many years. The subject has been done to death. Plus I don't think that NPR radio reaches the UK.

I ain't really a miserable old git but just get sick of hype.


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Subject: RE: NPR Radio Diaries
From: Janie
Date: 24 Nov 11 - 11:04 PM

The main point of the piece, Hoot, is the impact of the recordings. The piece does laud, correctly imo, Johnson's guitar playing, but that is not the thrust of the the broadcast. Johnson understood the time limitations of recording on wax and crafted songs such that the story could be told within the time limitations. Many other recordings of his contemporaries might end mid-song simply because the technology had reached it's limits. Then, Columbia reissued his recordings in the very early 60's. Those recordings were listened to by a wide range of rockers and blues rockers and had a big influence on musicians and bands that arose in the 60's.

The piece is about the impact of the recordings made by these two musicians.

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Subject: RE: NPR Radio Diaries
From: Acme
Date: 25 Nov 11 - 10:27 AM

Hootenanny, climb down off your high horse and give the NPR piece a listen. I heard it twice last week and it's excellent. It doesn't make false claims, it highlights the importance of the recordings and their durability. It gives context to the period also.


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Subject: RE: NPR Radio Diaries
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 26 Nov 11 - 05:22 AM

O.K so I noticed that the programme only lasted about 12 minutes so gave it a listen. My question still is How did Robert Johnson's recordings change music history? the programme played very brief sound clips of rock bands, the usual suspects Clapton and Led Zeppelin to illustrate Jonson's musical influence. All I heard was very loud bands bellowing some of Johnson's lyrics with very little reference to Johnson's tunes or treatment of the material he recorded. Those same groups did the same thing with the work of many pre and post war bluesmen and sometimes I understand even claimed credit.
Janie I don't know which of Robert's contemporaries you refer to but blues was mainly dance music, not music to sit down and listen to. Much of the time singers went into a studio sang random floating verses or variations thereof sometimes around a basic theme until the time came to stop. They didn't finish mid song but after they had sung enough verses to fill up the time available.

One thing that I would agree with in this programme is that no-one yet has been able to reproduce Robert's music in anyway close to his masterpieces.


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