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Live Music Making History Live- Programs by Jon Waterman

I create and perform programs that use music to inspire enthusiasm for and a desire to explore history. The shows consist of carefully researched original songs, traditional songs, stories and narratives and a slide show. Each program has a theme- currently the themes are “The Roots of American Popular Music”, “History and Legends” and “The Railroad in the U.S.” with further themes being developed. For more details on the programs, see below.

Exploring history promotes an appreciation of diversity and culture by helping us understand each other and ourselves. Celebrating history brings individuals together as a community, giving them a sense of identity from shared stories and experiences. History as a source of entertainment promotes critical thinking and an awareness and understanding of contemporary issues.


Press It in Wax

Murrieta’s Head

A Journey through the Roots of American Popular Music

“A Journey through the Roots of American Popular Music” explores characters & events at the origins of the blues, rock & country music. The show is entertaining and relevant to our story as a people. An article from the 12/2019 Martha’s Vineyard Times can be read at The video of the program was compiled from performances in Manchester VT on 9-23-2022 (they had their Halloween decorations up for unrelated events), Torrington, CT on 9-15-2022, and at home in Haverhill, MA in October, 2022.

Chapter 1: Ralph Peer & “The Big Bang” of country music, Sam Phillips, John Hammond and John & Alan Lomax. Song: Press it in Wax
Chapter 2: Iron Head Baker and The Unfortunate Rake. Songs: Streets of Laredo, St. James Infirmary
Chapter 3: The birthplace of the blues. Songs: My Heart Will Always Be in New Orleans, Dockery Farm
Chapter 4: Jerry Go ‘Ile the Car, a song by an Irish railroad worker. Song: Riley the Bum
Chapter 5: Tejano and Conjunto Music. Song: Poca de Polka
Chapter 6: Minstrelsy and the evil of racism. Song: Thomas Rice and His Traveling Revue
Chapter 7: Butler May- the original bluesman. Song: Butler May
Chapter 8: The proto-blues. Song: Hughie Cannon’s Blues
Chapter 9: Jimmie Rodgers-“the singing brakeman”. Song: Ride with Jimmie Rodgers
Chapter 10: Popular songs and events in our lives- a story from World War II. Song: Last Dance to Stardust
Chapter 11: Blind Alfred Reed and the stifling of the arts. Song: Blind Alfred Reed

Cro-Magnon Blues: History & Legends through Song

“Cro-Magnon Blues: History & Legends through Song” explores intriguing characters, events and legends from ancient Sumer to the present day. The video was compiled from performances in East Providence, RI on 10-3-2022 and Shoreham, VT on 9-22-2022.

Chapter 1: The first known author. Song: Akkadian Rhythm
Chapter 2: The legend of the 1389 Battle of Kosovo. Song: From the Hills of Frushka Gora
Chapter 3: The last French soldier of World War I. Song: Private Trebuchon
Chapter 4: An ill-fated steamboat at the end of the Civil War. Song: Sultana
Chapter 5: Nelson Eddy and the 1938 War of the Worlds broadcast. Song: Nelson Eddy.
Chapter 6: The legend of a California bandit. Song: Murrieta’s Head
Chapter 7: The daughter of bandit queen Belle Starr. Song: Pearl
Chapter 8: A wrongly convicted man. Song: Louis Taylor
Chapter 9: Last King of the Akkadian Empire. Song: Dudu of Akkad
Chapter 10: Gobekli Teppe and he beginnings of civilization. Song: Potbelly Hill 

The Railroad in Song

“The Railroad in Song” is set to debut in Spring of 2023. Topics covered in the program will include famed engineer Casey Jones, the contribution of Chinese workers building the Transcontinental Railroad, the Ashtabula Train Disaster, the railroad and immigrants, the history of “The Wreck of the Ol’ 97”, and more.

An overlooked and underappreciated chapter in U.S. history is the contribution of Chinese laborers in building the western portion of the Transcontinental Railroad. Unable to maintain a sufficient workforce, the Central Pacific Railroad, which had been awarded the contract for constructing the the western portion of the Transcontinental began recruiting Chinese workers in 1865. And by 1867 they made up the majority of the Central Pacific’s workforce.  The Chinese workers were tasked with drilling and blasting tunnels through the Sierra Nevada mountains and the Nevada desert. They endured harsh and dangerous conditions, severe weather, and abuse while being paid less than the white workers on the same line. After the completion of the railroad in Promontory, UT, in 1869, the Chinese immigrants continued to be subjected to prejudice and discrimination, most famously from the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.

In Guangdong Province, where most of the Chinese laborers were recruited, California- and the Western U.S. generally- was called “Gold Mountain” after the gold discovery of 1849. In Cantonese, the word for “gold mountain” was gum shan.

Musician, songwriter, and history enthusiast Jon Waterman has been performing his original songs along with blues, rock and country standards throughout his life. His music is influenced by characters and stories from history, the roots of the music he loves, and the diversity of the human experience. Waterman has presented his programs “A Journey through the Roots of American Popular Music” and “Cro-Magnon Blues: History and Legends through Song” in venues around the country, both in person and virtually. He has an MA in Popular Music History from Prescott College, an MA in Psychology from Kaplan University, and a BA in History from Northern Arizona University.

“A Journey Through the Roots of American Popular Music by Jon Waterman is a unique performance experience combining
music history, storytelling, and original songs inspired by his research. Waterman successfully transforms fascinating tales from
history into an evening-length performance that feels personal, contemporary, and politically relevant.
A must see for anyone
interested in American history or American music!”
– Sarah Slifer Swift, Director, MAGMA Gloucester

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