Mark Humphrey

Join Mark Humphrey the 4th Saturday of most months for a mix of music on KPFK’s Roots Music & Beyond, Saturdays 6-8 a.m. 90.7 fm. The show is archived for two weeks after broadcast at KPFK’s website.

The Great Welsh Hope

I love outliers.  That’s why Gwenifer Raymond drew me in: How improbable is a Goth-looking young lady from Wales picking a Depression-era parlor guitar in the American Primitive style pioneered in the Sixties by John Fahey?  You couldn’t possibly make her up, or the fact that she arrived at her unlikely choice of genre via an early exposure to Nirvana. …

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New Orleans Piano Players

New Orleans, cradle of jazz, evokes brass over any other sort of instrument for most of us—naturally, given the fame of its parading brass bands and the trumpet of its iconic native son Louis Armstrong.  But for a century it was also a piano town.  “New Orleans was the stomping grounds for all the greatest pianists in the country,” Jelly …

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First Recorded Electric Guitar Solo

Bob Willis & His Texas Playboys

Firsts make history: first to run a four-minute mile; first to climb Mt. Everest; first in space.  The world offers special praise to anyone who accomplishes something noteworthy first, even if it’s later done better.  But what if you were first at something and the world never noticed, partly because it’s something you weren’t known to do at all?  I …

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Quacking Good Guitar

Tompkins Square is a boutique indie label that’s reissued recordings by several of the American Primitive guitarists of the 1960s and `70s.  Its latest release features an artist of the era if not the idiom, and since the recordings are new to vinyl and CD, we can’t call it a reissue.  It’s Duck Baker: Les Blues Du Richmond: Demos and …

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Sixties Guitars, Unplugged

Cover Image for The Thousand Incarnations of the Rose Album

The guitar hit its zenith of power and popularity in the 1960s.  In the decade’s shiny early years the spare twang of Duane Eddy and the propulsive throb of surf guitars were recurring motifs in America’s soundtrack.  By the decade’s turbulent climax, the swirl of psychedelia was driven by guitarists elevated, much to their peril, to pop culture deities. The …

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Luthiers, Winter NAMM 2018

Enrico Di Donato has a lot on his mind. “This is one of mankind’s oldest topics,” he says. “I started with this concept of revenge, the balance between yin and yang, and when does an act of justice become one of revenge?” Those aren’t subjects you expect to hear pondered at a trade show, let alone the world’s largest music …

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Blues Images, Still & Moving

Where would we be without the blues?  Maybe right where we are now, in a blues-free zone: few traces of blues remain in most contemporary music. It was a far different story in the dear ol’ 20th century: you may remember it, or at least you’ve heard stories.  In its first half blues was America’s foundational music, pulsing through everything …

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Halloween Songs

Halloween is an outlier among our holidays.  Neither religious nor patriotic, there are no Halloween songs, officially anyway.  But there are songs that seem seasonal for their `spooky’ connotations.  Do you have a Halloween playlist?  What follows are selections from mine. The first isn’t spooky at all, unless you know its backstory.  “The House Carpenter” as recorded by Tennessee singer-banjoist …

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“Be proud that you’re Indian, but be careful who you tell.” -Robbie Robertson, Mohawk, in Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World It’s an irony of exclusion that those shut out of mainstream opportunities often have disproportionate impact on popular culture, especially music.  From late 19th century Irish and Jewish vaudevillians to the same era’s black ragtime composers and up …

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Gentle Lineman

Memory is selective.  The Monterey Pop Festival, the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s…, the Summer of Love—the 50th anniversary  of these musical and cultural milestones has been widely noted in recent months.  The Aug. 8th passing of Glen Campbell at age 81 summoned a forgotten 1967 marker—it was the year he became a star, and a very big one.  Campbell was the …

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