Every day in New Orleans, Lily Keber rolls out of bed and walks to a flat, minor office building to meet her muse. Keber makes a cup of coffee with chicory, hooks up her computer and waits for what sounds like a dozen spiders to crawl across a piano.
Various versions of the traditional ballad "Midnight Special" track a train that ran on the Illinois Central line from Mississippi to Chicago — an apt allegory for much of 20th-century American folk music, traced in the long path of "Midnight Special" from Deep South musical pre-history to the singularly personal rendition by late country crooner Merle Travis.
And finally, this hour, we remember Earl Scruggs, the master of the five-string banjo, who has died at age 88. As a young man, he created his own style of fingerpicking on the banjo that would come to bear his name: Scruggs style. He got his start with Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys in the 1940s and then teamed up with Lester Flatt as Flatt and Scruggs. And he influenced countless players over his many decades of music, among them, fellow banjo player Tony Trischka, who joins me now.