It's amazing what a little time, money and material will do. The city tourism bureau has an absorbing podcast up on their Sound About Philly page. It's called Philly Noir, and my favorite segment celebrates the day when even people living behind the Iron Curtain could tell you about the Philadelphia Sound.
Kenny Gamble - half of the Gamble and Huff musical team - talks about how their signature sound was forged with retired string players from the Philadelphia Orchestra and daylighting horn players from the Uptown Theater.
"It was like America," Gamble says. "You had old, young, classical, jazz. You had this fusion of people, and when you put the music in front of them, they all had their way of interpreting... We had this symphonic sound, which was on top of this funk sound ... with a little bit of jazz and gospel right in the middle of it."
That's one of 11 clickable points on the map of African-American Philadelphia heritage one can visit in this podcast, which would make a decent walking tour if someone wanted to download it to a personal player. The sound is lush - generous helpings of Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes and MFSB on the Gamble piece, for instance. Funding came from the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Bureau.
There's Delilah Winder talking about her soul kitchen, and the mac and cheese that Ms. Oprah Winfrey has pronounced the nation's best. "I've never had the temptation to get away from the basics in our food," says the proprietor of Delilah's Southern Cooking.
Bill "Ready" Cash talks about playing baseball in the Negro League in the '40s and '50s when the Philadelphia Stars would outdraw the majors. "The crowd was mixed. We drew like the dickens...." At least until they lost Jackie Robinson and Hank Aaron, both of whom he played against.
"Anywhere we'd go below Chester, Pa., they called you names."
Eagles linebacker Dhani Jones praises about the singer, player and scholar Paul Robeson. Vernoca Michael, CEO of the Blue Horizon, describes the old school fight emporium where 42 world champions have boxed - but not Muhammad Ali.
Nicola Shirley reveals the African, Asian, European and New World influences that come together over the steady heat in her stove at the Jamaican Jerk Hut. At Natalie's Lounge in West Philly, Warren Oree talks about the once-local musicians in whose shadow he plays -- Diz, Trane, Lee Morgan, Philly Jo Jones, Benny Golson.
I still care for the Gamble interview the most. "Music cuts through all barriers," he says. "I don't think anything can bring people together the way that music does. I think music is the most powerful force on earth."
(Photo of Carol Riddick singing at Zanzibar Blue by M. Downey for GPTMC)