Why is Labor Day celebrated?

We all love that day off from school or work, that long weekend to go to the lake house, have a barbeque and visit with relatives, but let’s face it, most of us don’t really know why Labor Day is celebrated, or the history behind the holiday.

Labor Day, which is celebrated on the first Monday in September, honors and recognizes the American labor movement and the role of laborers in the development and achievements of the country. The holiday originated in the late 1800s, after the Industrial Revolution, when trade unions were growing steadily. Unionists thought that there should be a day to recognize labor, so the first parade was organized in New York City, and it became an official holiday in 1894.

You may be wondering, what kind of music did people listen to back then, in the late 19th century? Well, we’ve compiled a short list of historical tunes that are sure to impress your friends and family at your Labor Day celebration!

I’ve Been Working on the Railroad – 1894

With its lyrics about rising early in the morn to go work on the railroad, this American folk song embodies the spirit and history of Labor Day. Railroading was a career that many young men took up at around age 18 to 20. They began as shop laborers with the possibility of being promoted to the positions of skilled mechanic, brakeman, freight conductor and passenger conductor. And not only did the explosion of railways create jobs, but it also transformed many sectors of the U.S. economy, such as manufacturing, agriculture, and finance. 

Swing Low, Sweet Chariot – 1872

This African American spiritual song was originally composed in 1865 by Wallis Willis, a Choctaw freedman, who had probably been inspired by the sight of the Red River, where he worked alongside. The river may have reminded him of the Jordan River and the Prophet Elijah, which are referenced in the song.

A minister at the Choctaw boarding school heard Willis singing the song, so he transcribed the lyrics and melodies, and sent it to the Jubilee Singers of the historically black Fisk University in Nashville, who popularized the song in the early 1900s.

While Strolling Through the Park One Day – 1884

Originally written and published by vaudeville performer Ed Haley, this tune has been featured in many films and was sung by Judy Garland. Interestingly enough, a few bars were also sung by the NASA astronauts when they landed on the moon with the Apollo 17 mission. I was strolling on the moon one day…” 

Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue – Janis Siegel, John Di Martino & Lonnie Plaxico

The oldies are neat and everything, but after the novelty wears off, they’re probably not the type of music you want to listen to for hours on end. After the collective ride down American memory lane, maybe it’s time to change the playlist up and play something a bit more modern, like this 2020 jazz rendition of Crystal Gayle’s country hit!

If you’re looking for more jazzy country tunes to play at your Labor Day party, our new album Cryin’ In My Whiskey is available in our store and on all major music platforms now. And if you’d like to book one of our wonderful musicians for your event, please contact us today. 

What is the National Day of the Cowboy?

Created in 2005, the National Day of the Cowboy celebrates the role and contributions that cowboys and cowgirls have made to America’s history and culture. The NDOC organization even gives out awards to individuals and organizations that promote and preserve pioneer and cowboy history! The day is observed on the fourth Saturday in July, so that means this year, July 24th will be the day to put on your boots and saddle up!

Cowboys began appearing in the heartland and wild west after the Civil War. Working mostly as ranchers and ranch hands, cowboys raised cattle and horses, and herded them across the plains to slaughterhouses. And since the western frontier was still widely unexplored at the time, it was a lawless land that swirled with riches, adventure and violence. Amid this backdrop, the mythical, stoic image of the cowboy became popular. 

Now you may be wondering how you can celebrate the National Day of the Cowboy. Well, you could put on a cowboy hat, go to a rodeo, and then come home and listen to these country western songs that we picked out for you. Find a partner, say howdy and have a hog-killin’ time square-dancing the night away!

Roy Rogers – Don’t Fence Me In

Known in his heyday as the “King of the Cowboys,” Ray Rogers acted and sang in over 100 Western films. This 1944 tune, which he sang with his wife Doris Rogers, became known across the country and for generations to come as the cowboy theme song. Oh, give me land, lots of land under starry skies above…

Marty Robinson – The Streets of Laredo (Cowboys Lament)

Derived from a traditional Irish folk song, titled “The Unfortunate Rake,” this cowboy ballad was named one of Top 100 Western songs of all time and has become a folk music standard. In the song, a dying cowboy tells his story to another cowboy in Laredo, Texas.  

Gene Autry – Back in The Saddle Again

Nicknamed the “Singing Cowboy,” Gene Autry personified the honest, brave and true hero, and he was a significant pioneer in the history of country music. “Back in the Saddle Again” was first released in 1939 and became Autry’s signature song because who wouldn’t want to be transported to the land where the longhorn cattle feed on the lowly gypsum weed?

Janis Siegel, John Di Martino & Lonnie Plaxico – Always On My Mind

This bittersweet, remorseful ballad, made famous by the outlaw country star Willie Nelson, is given a jazz treatment in this brand-new version. Including a lovely flute solo from Aaron Heick, this rendition really pulls at your heartstrings. Tell me that your sweet love hasn’t died…

If you’re looking for more country tunes to celebrate the National Day of the Cowboy, check out our newly released album, Cryin’ in My Whiskey, which is available in our store and on all major music platforms. And if you’d like one of our talented musicians to perform at your event, please contact us today! 

John di Martino Post #2

Ah, the sweet bliss of a Friday afternoon. Nothing beats it. Except maybe this Friday feature with New York City based musician, John Di Martino. 

If you read last week’s feature, you’ll know that Martino is more than just a jazz pianist, he is also a composer, arranger and producer. But did you know that Martino also has worked in a wide range of musical genres? 

Martino has a long collaboration with percussionist and musicologist, Bobby Sanabria. Together in 2000, they produced the album “Afro-Cuban Dream: Live & In Clave!!!” which was nominated for a Grammy award and received critical acclaim for its progressive approach to the art of the big band. Martin is also active on the world beat scene, working with South African bassist Bakithi Kumalo. 

More recently, Martino has been exploring the fusion of country western and jazz music in the new album, “Cryin’ In My Whiskey.” Released by Night Is Alive, this album also features the vocals of Janis Siegel and the bass of Lonnie Plaxico. “Cryin’ in My Whiskey” is just what we need to be listeninng to right now in order to celebrate this (hopefully) post-covid era. The songs on this album tell the stories of country classics with a jazz twist. You won’t want to miss it! 

“Cryin’ In My Whiskey” is available at https://nightisalive.com/portfolio/cryin-in-my-whiskey/ and all major online music platforms. 

What music inspires the versatile John Di Martino you may wonder? Well, look no further, we have the answers you’re looking for below:

  • Besides jazz, what genres of music do you like to listen to? 
    • I love to listen to classical music, world music—I really love all music!
  • Who are some other musicians that inspire you? 
    • I am inspired by Herbie Hancock, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Gil Evans, John Coltrane, Bela Bartok & many others!
  • What is your favorite tune from Cryin’ In My Whiskey
    • I love all the tracks, but I will say: “Break It To Me Gently.”

John Di Martino Post #1

The weekend is finally here! Thank goodness! Now it’s time to have some fun and get to know this creative jazz pianist, John Di Martino. 

Martino was born and raised in Philadelphia, and as a teenager he spent most of his time at local jazz clubs, where he still returns to work on occasion. Martino eventually moved to New York City, where he is now based, and began his career.

Described as a “shape-shifter,” Martino is known for occupying many different realms as a composer, arranger, jazz pianist and producer. As a jazz pianist, he’s performed and recorded with famous musicians like Eddie Gomez, Kenny Burrell and James Moody. As a musical director, he has accompanied Dianne Schuur and Jon Hendricks. 

We’re lucky enough to feature this world-class pianist, who has performed in China and Carnegie Hall, on our newest album, “Cryin’ In My Whiskey.” Also featuring the vocals of Janis Siegel, this album is a blend of country western and jazz music that is full of classics you’re sure to recognize, like “Always On My Mind” and “I Fall To Pieces.” 

I know it’s Friday and we don’t want to think about next week yet, but the tunes from “Cryin’ In My Whiskey” will make your commute to work on Monday feel like a luxurious cruise.    

“Cryin’ In My Whiskey” is available at https://nightisalive.com/portfolio/cryin-in-my-whiskey/

and all major online music platforms. 

#JohnDiMartino #CryinInMyWhiskey #jazz #feature #musician #pianist #composer #arranger #NightisAlive #countrywestern #album #crossgenre

We got to sit down and pick Martino’s brain. Check out his answers below!

  • What are you most looking forward to in the coming months? 
    • I look forward to the return of live gigs and touring, but much more recording in the meantime!
  • Do you have any advice or words of wisdom for young musicians? 
    • Find your unique ‘God-Given’ voice and trust in it! The practice of imitation is only a tool for learning!
  • What is your favorite tune from Cryin’ In My Whiskey
    • I love all the tracks, but I will say: “Break It To Me Gently”