Gwen Thompkins

Gwen Thompkins is a New Orleans native, NPR veteran and host of WWNO's Music Inside Out, where she brings to bear the knowledge and experience she amassed as senior editor of Weekend Edition, an East Africa correspondent, the holder of Nieman and Watson Fellowships, and as a longtime student of music from around the world.

Music News
7:55 am
Sun July 6, 2014

The Kentucky Sisters And Old-Time Tunes As Doorways To History

The Kentucky Sisters.
Jason Rhein Elephant Quilty Productions

Originally published on Sun July 6, 2014 2:46 pm

Did you know that John F. Kennedy was a Republican? Neither did I. But that's what one of my college students guessed in a course on news writing. I asked another kid what period followed the Industrial Age and she said, "The Golden Age?" We moved on.

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Around the Nation
7:56 am
Sat March 1, 2014

New Orleans Piano Legend's Home Finally Restored After Katrina

Originally published on Tue March 4, 2014 10:34 am

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Professor Longhair's house has been saved. Now, last year we brought you a story about the piano legend and the nationwide effort to rebuild his home following Hurricane Katrina. Henry Roeland Byrd, better known as Professor Longhair, is widely considered to be the father of modern New Orleans music. He died in 1980, but at carnival time especially, it's evident that Professor Longhair's influence endures. Now, his house will too. Gwen Thompkins brings us this story of music and more.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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A Blog Supreme
2:41 pm
Wed May 8, 2013

A Look Back At Jazz Fest, Where Ages Were Made

Allen Toussaint performs during the 2013 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Music Festival. He would also play a small club after the festival finished for the day.
Rick Diamond Getty Images

Some music festivals are known for certain specific things; others are known for a broad assortment. The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival is known for everything. The city's arms are just that wide.

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The Record
8:28 am
Sun February 3, 2013

A Small-Time Wordsmith Hits It Big In Nashville

Once a poet and an English teacher, Jim McCormick has become a powerhouse Nashville songwriter.
Scott Saltzman Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Sun February 3, 2013 6:21 pm

In March, country music star Jason Aldean is playing Madison Square Garden. Tickets sold out in 10 minutes. Fans want to hear his latest No. 1 song, "Take a Little Ride."

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Music Interviews
2:03 am
Sat January 5, 2013

Preserving The Home, And History, Of New Orleans' Piano Professor

Professor Longhair performs at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, circa 1970.
David Redfern Redferns

Originally published on Sat January 5, 2013 2:10 pm

On the tough side of Terpsichore Street in New Orleans stands a duplex — a two-story, wood-framed building with wood floors, high ceilings and a nice fireplace. But this old house is empty: no furniture, no walls, no electricity, no toilet. Iron bars hide the windows; there's a lockbox on the door. The facade is three different shades of blecch, blurgh and blah.

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The Mix
5:17 pm
Mon July 23, 2012

The Mix: New Orleans, Inside Out

A Mardi Gras Indian performs at the 2008 Voodoo Music Experience festival, held in New Orleans City Park.
Jason Saul WWNO

Originally published on Fri August 3, 2012 4:17 pm

Louisiana music has such a hold on music lovers around the world that nearly every popular artist borrows from it. Or replicates it. Or, some might say, steals from it.

There's plenty to go around. From classical to Cajun and blues to bounce, Louisiana has expanded the American songbook while teaching the rest of the planet to "shake dat thing." And we haven't even mentioned Louis Armstrong yet.

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Dead Stop
3:13 am
Thu July 5, 2012

Beyond The Music In St. Louis Cemetery No. 2

Ernie K-Doe poses outside his Mother-In-Law Lounge during Jazz Fest in New Orleans in 2001. He died a few months later and was buried in St. Louis Cemetery No. 2.
Pat Jolly AP

Originally published on Thu July 5, 2012 10:25 pm

There's so much water in, around and underneath New Orleans, that the dead spend eternity in tombs above ground.

Most of the tombs now have a similar design: On top, there's space for a wooden coffin or two, and at the bottom lies a potpourri of decanted family remains. Sooner or later, whoever is up high must vacate and settle lower, making room for the newly dead. That's how families stay together — in a desiccated jumble of grandpas, grandmas, siblings and cousins.

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