About

Welcome to my website! I am a Professor Emeritus at Penn State University and, specializing in American Roots Music, a writer, educator, performer, public speaker, film producer/narrator, and concert producer.

My best known work is the book Great God A’Mighty! The Dixie Hummingbirds/Celebrating the Rise of Soul Gospel Music, [Oxford University Press, 2003/2022], tracing the 90+ year career of the famed African American gospel group The Dixie Hummingbirds and their influence on both sacred and secular music.

Also, my collaboration with cartoonist/satirist Robert Crumb on Chimpin’ the Blues, an homage to blues roots available on CD, vinyl, and via streaming. Crumb and I spin favorite records from our 78 RPM collections and yack between tracks about the songs and artists. Great music and lottsa laffs!

Over the years I’ve written numerous articles, album liner notes, and book chapters about the blues, country, gospel, and rock ‘n’ roll. My interest in the influence of popular entertainment has also drawn me into the realm of humor and especially stand-up comedy, its history, and its role in taking on issues ranging from racism and censorship to misogyny and social injustice.

Here are links to some of my most recent writings, radio programs, film appearances, and musical releases:

“The Beatles as Recording Artists” in The Cambridge Companion to the Beatles

“Sgt. Pepper – With a Little Outsider Help – Taught the Band to Play” in The Beatles, Sgt. Pepper, and the Summer of Love

“On the Record! (Dis)Covering the Beatles” in The Beatles in Context

Biographical entries about Paramount recording artists in Third Man’s The Rise and Fall of Paramount Records 1917–1927 Vol 1 and The Rise and Fall of Paramount Records 1928-1932 Vol 2

Chimpin’ the Blues with Robert Crumb and Jerry Zolten, a vinyl/CD/streaming album from East River Records in which rare 1920s and ’30s blues and related recordings are interpolated with conversation and yucks.

Narrator, co-writer, and co-producer of Time to Lay It Down: The Soundtrack of the Vietnam War, a two-part audio documentary directed by Frank Christopher for Penn State Public Broadcasting that explores the music that expressed the deep divisions about the war in American society

Principle on-screen narrator, The Ballad of the Dreadnought, a short documentary film from Martin Guitars telling the story of their flagship D model guitars

Co-producer and on-screen narrator, How They Got Over: Gospel Quartets and the Road to Rock and Roll, an award winning documentary film directed by Robert Clem about the Black gospel quartets that created an art form and along the way influenced emerging doo wop, R&B, soul, rock and roll, and hip hop.

Producer of the album Wreckin’ the House/Live at Mt. Hope by the Grammy-winning Fairfield Four, and the album Beautiful Stars by Fairfield Four bass singer Isaac Freeman.

Additional public radio programs produced and narrated for Penn State Public Broadcasting include In the Spirit, a history of Black gospel music, and Boppin’ With Pekar, a jazz history with Harvey Pekar and special guest, artist Phoebe Gloeckner.

Co-organizer in conjunction with Penn State, Monmouth University, Virginia Tech, and the University of Southern Indiana a series of academic conferences, GLORY DAYS/A BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN SYMPOSIUM.

Producer/organizer in conjunction with the GRAMMY Museum and the Guthrie Foundation, WOODY@100 at Penn State, a centennial celebration of American folk music icon Woody Guthrie.