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Out of the Many, the One

Episode 3 of 4

The story of the pioneers of American roots music explores Hawaiian music, Cajun music and Mississippi John Hurt's blues.

A look at the influence of Hawaiian music and more specifically, the steel guitar, which became a central sound to a range of musical styles. When Joseph Kekuku picked up a metal bolt as he wandered down a train track, the bolt hit the strings of his guitar and the sound was born. He perfected his slide to create a new instrument that would travel the world.

The programme continues with an exploration of Cajun music, the blended music of Louisiana that reflects the winding landscape of the bayous. This appealed to the record companies as something set apart from the established genres of country, jazz and blues. Central to the scene were the Breaux family, who talk about continuing their musical heritage today.

Finally we hear the story of Mississippi John Hurt - discovered in the 1920s but soon forgotten, he represents the odyssey of American Epic in microcosm. After travelling to Memphis where his music was recorded, he returned home to Avalon, a tiny spot on the map of Mississippi. With the Depression, recording in the south came virtually to a halt and Hurt simply went back to sharecropping, his music forgotten by all but a few dedicated collectors. 35 years after those first recordings, folklorist Dick Spottswood tracked down Hurt in 1963, sparking a revival of his music. He starred at the Newport Folk Festival and became celebrated all over the world.

60 minutes

Music Played

Timings (where shown) are from the start of the programme in hours and minutes

  • 00:00

    Brian Eno

    Another Green World

  • 00:03

    Pink Floyd

    High Hopes

  • 00:17

    Joe Falcon

    Lafayette (Allons A Lafayette)

  • 00:29

    Mississippi John Hurt

    Louis Collins

  • 00:33

    Mississippi John Hurt


  • 00:35

    Mississippi John Hurt

    Candy Man Blues

  • 00:36

    Mississippi John Hurt

    Avalon Blues

  • 00:44

    Mississippi John Hurt

    The Angels Laid Him Away

  • 00:52

    Blind Willie Johnson

    Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground


Role Contributor
Narrator Robert Redford
Director Bernard MacMahon
Producer Bernard MacMahon
Series Editor Anthony Wall
Producer Allison McGourty
Producer Duke Erikson
Executive Producer T Bone Burnett
Executive Producer Robert Redford
Executive Producer Jack White
Production Company Lo-Max


Featured in...

BBC Music Presents… Arena: American Epic

BBC Music Presents… Arena: American Epic

Extracts and performances from a series celebrating the pioneers of American roots music.