History of American Roots Music

On a world wide basis, most high school and college age students spend a great deal of time listening to music that is a product of American Roots Music. Rock, Hip-Hop, Punk, Reggae, Rap and the broad spectrum of Pop Music are all direct descendants of work songs, blues, folk, country and jazz. However, we live in a world where music is often digitally presented in 10 to 30 second segments. Today’s students are losing sight of the very idea of music that is written and performed by musicians with instruments. More importantly, they are often unaware of the birth and development of American music and how it continues to affect and to reflect modern culture.
George Kilby Jr’s aim is to change this trend, and in doing so, enrich the minds of young people by means of ingraining their own musical heritage into them. This will change the way they listen and the way they think.  In turn, this enriches our society itself by fostering minds that think creatively, react emotionally, and consider the world historically.

Read recommendations from educators that have utilized this program in their curriculum

George and his band bring a unique lecture/concert experience with exciting versions of American song icons; and discussions of these songs’ cultural, economic and historical impact. Audience participation is encouraged, often in the form of spontaneous discussions about lyrics, themes, and musical styles.

As the show progresses, each song’s time in American history is discussed. The theme of the song as well as the “feel” of the music is discussed. Parallels are drawn between the country’s overall progression and the changes in America’s music. Below are songs and discussions that are key points in each performance.
NOTE: Songs subject to change depending on length of concert and audience.

1. A “FIELD HOLLER” (Work Songs, the earliest known American music) The seeds of American Music are sown by working Africans using rhythm and rudimentary English.
3. YOUR FEETS’ TOO BIG – FATS WALLER (Jazz) The Blues of Delta, the Jazz of New Orleans,  and Woody Guthrie’s ballads in the Midwest are important early stages of what is to come.  The great depression makes its mark and we hear the first stirrings of musical protest.
4. CHOO CHOO CH’ BOOGIE – LOUIS JORDAN (Swing/Jazz) The golden era of the railroad is a big change. Swing and Country Music are created from Jazz and Folk. Electric instruments and accessible phonograph records change the musical landscape forever.  The anxieties of WWI and II are apparent.
5. MAYBELLINE- CHUCK BERRY (Rock and Roll) We revel in the age of the automobile and our mobile independence. Rock and roll is born and Chuck Berry is at its forefront with Elvis not far behind. The car is immortalized in song.
7. BLOWIN’ IN THE WIND – BOB DYLAN (Modern Folk) Rebellion and counterculture in our music. Earlier folk music has a revival.  Politically motivated music is written with Vietnam as a common theme.
8. THE LETTER – THE BOXTOPS (Rock) Rock and Roll brings us modern Rock, with its louder and more complex sound, further from blues.
10. TOOT TOOT – CLIFTON CHENEIR (ZYDECO) Rap music has a profound effect on urban culture and on the way music is created. A melding of styles occurs due to the communication and media explosions.  Gospel, Cajun, Zydeco, Soul, Funk, and ethnic music from around the world appear on the landscape.