Music and Musicians

Today on Talk of Iowa, Charity talks with the finalists for Wellmark's 80/35 Play-in presented by Iowa Public Radio's Studio One. We'll hear from Love Songs For Lonely Monsters, Holy White Hounds and Seedlings in addition to Iowa Public Radio's Music Director Al Schares. 

Grinnell College

A young composer who is seen by many as an up-and-coming talent will soon have his new piece performed on the East Coast.  His work was written for and premiered this spring by the Grinnell College choir.  It combines the unlikely pairing of Irish poetry about Iowa with biblical passages about an apocalypse sung in Arabic.

Nearly four years ago flood waters dramatically changed the landscape in Iowa City. Over the next few years the campus will be transformed again as the University of Iowa replaces the lost buildings. On today's Talk of Iowa, we’ll hear about recently approved plans to rebuild the University of Iowa arts campus, including a new Hancher Auditorium, Art Building and Music Building.

Fifty-three years ago Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper (J.P. Richardson) gave their final performances at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake. The accident that followed turned the Surf into a rock 'n roll icon. On today's Talk of Iowa, we’ll remember the Winter Dance Party and discover what makes the Surf a special place.

Mention the New Deal, and most Iowans would think of a bridge, state park or school gymnasium. But the arts also flourished during the Great Depression, thanks to federal programs that gave jobs to painters, sculptors, writers and performers. A museum director calls it, "the greatest art movement in Iowa in 100 years."

Seventy-five years ago, the federal government bankrolled countless infrastructure programs that put tens of thousands of Iowans to work; many of the projects are enjoying a revival, of sorts. Some are being renovated, others are endangered, and many are just as vital as they were in the 1930s.

A nationwide search is underway for graduates of the largest pipe and drum band in the world. It is all in preparation for a reunion in Iowa City. Historic sound extends back to 1948.

Andy Williams Birthplace Museum

It has been 45 years since the Williams Brothers broke up. That’s when the youngest member launched his own act. Iowa Public Radio's Rick Fredericksen was in the audience recently, and concludes his profile on Iowa native Andy Williams, who passed away in 2012. (Part One is posted below) Historic audio courtesy of Iowa Public TV, Andy Williams, his birthplace museum and You Tube.

Andy Williams Birthplace Museum

It was just over 75 years ago when a young Iowa boy joined his brothers in a church choir in western Iowa. Until 2012, when Andy Williams passed away, he was one of the most productive octogenarians in entertainment. Iowa Public Radio's Rick Fredericksen traveled to Wall Lake and Branson, Missouri, for this 2-part, Iowa Archives special. Historic audio comes from Andy Williams, his birthplace museum, and You Tube.

The Surf Ballroom is holding its Winter Dance Party next week in Clear Lake. Among the rock and roll legends scheduled to attend is the man who performed the opening act at the tragic Winter Dance Party in 1959. This will be his first trip back.

Fortnightly Club

Jun 16, 2009
Fortnightly Club

Most of us listen to music on radio, CDs, iPods or smart phones. For one special audience, a club in central Iowa still performs live music, just as it has for a hundred years. Historic audio recorded in 1973 by Winifred Kelly.

Big Band Museum

Apr 10, 2009
Glenn Miller Birthplace Museum

A museum, opened in 2010, commemorates musical legend Glenn Miller at his birthplace in Clarinda. We visited the birthplace prior to the new museum's groundbreaking ceremony. Our story features historic audio from the Big Band era, recorded around the U.S. and in England. Courtesy of Cary Hahn and Marvin Negley, the sound clips date from 1939 to 1944.

Surf Ballroom

We conclude our series from the Surf Ballroom and the corn field where Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, The Big Bopper and pilot Roger Peterson were killed in a plane crash in 1959. Sounds from the late '50s in California, New York, and unknown recording studios. Historic audio is from YouTube. (Part One is posted below)

It was 50 winters ago when the fledgling rock and roll world was stunned by the deaths of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper. We remember their last live performance at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake. Sounds from the late '50s in New York, Denver and unknown studios. Historic audio is from YouTube.

Iowa's Music Man

Dec 2, 2007
The Music Man Square

It has been 50 years since Meredith Willson's "The Music Man" premiered on stage (Dec. 19th, 1957). Our sound portrait of this talented Iowan extends back to his early days in radio. Audio courtesy of The Music Man Square Museum, Mason City Foundation and KGLO Radio. Sounds from the 1930s to 1960s, primarily in Mason City and Los Angeles.

State Historical Society of Iowa

Since we first discovered Nikita Khrushchev's gift to Iowa (see February 2007 posting), musicologists and Soviet experts across the country, including Khrushchev's son, have been consulted. Just what is the "Khrushchev Collection?" Here are the findings. Thanks to former First Lady Amelia Loveless, who donated the 20-album set to the  State Historical Society in 2006. Sounds from 1959 and before, from artists throughout the USSR.

From the USSR

Sep 18, 2007

Bonus hit from the Khrushchev Collection. The Federova Sisters sing "The Cockoo Bird Calls. From the 1950s.

Arizona State University

In the days when one-room schools were common, kids learned how to sing with the help of phonograph records. This is the story of the Fullerton "Choir Plan." Recordings courtesy of Marjorie Goodman.

American Folklife Center / Library of Congress

A tip from a public radio listener led to the oldest recordings in the Iowa Archives project. Learn the story behind the sacred songs of the Omaha Indians, thanks to the Federal Cylinder Project and the Library of Congress. Sounds from 1895-96, recorded in Macy, Nebraska.

Relatively unknown today, the Iowa Flag Song was adopted in 1949, when the legislature paused for poetry and a performance. Song composer Ester May Clark donated the recording to the State Historical Society of Iowa, in Des Moines.

Sidney Robertson Cowell / American Folklife Center

His name is George Vinton Graham and while he is no "American Idol," his singing is considered an important example of Anglo-American folk music. The Graham recordings were made by ethnographer Sidney Robertson Cowell in 1938 and are found at the Library of Congress (American Memory).

Ozark Folk Center

A seventy year old recording of dulcimer music leads to the story of an Iowa ghost town and an uncommon musical instrument. The Thomas Mann recordings are courtesy of the American Folklife Center, Sidney Robertson Cowell Collection, Library of Congress. Sounds from July, 1937, in Ortonville, Iowa.