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'Texas Sheik' Mixes Old Sounds With New Style

This week on Fresh Air, we're marking the year's end by revisiting some of the most memorable conversations we've had in 2009.

Think of Geoff Muldaur as a kind of Pied Piper of old-timey music. As the current leader of the band The Texas Sheiks, Muldaur's mix of old blues, Western swing, and ragtime has been luring audiences toward jazz and blues recordings from the 1920s and '30s.

Muldaur himself found his way into the music on the heels of Bessie Smith, Louis Armstrong, and Bix Beiderbecke.

"My brother had this record collection of 78s and LPs of jazz people. So I used to spend all my time in his room after school ... listening to ... these great jazz players." He tells Terry Gross that hidden in the jazz and blues standards, he started to hear some unusual tracks.

"Amongst that stuff were little smatterings of country blues," Muldaur says. "It was very mysterious to me."

His interest ignited by country blues, Muldaur went on to help found the Jim Kweskin Jug Band in 1962. The band survived for 6 years -- just long enough to inspire 60s icons Jerry Garcia and John Sebastian, founder of The Lovin' Spoonful.

Before joining The Texas Sheiks, Muldaur spent years playing with Bonnie Raitt, his ex-wife Maria Muldaur, and Eric Von Schmidt. His latest album, Texas Sheiks, includes a guest performance by his old friend, Jim Kweskin, and reinterprets the old-time music that ignited his career.

Muldaur takes a break from his tour to bring his guitar to the Fresh Air studio for a chat and a few rounds of song.

This interview was originally broadcast on December 7, 2009.

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