Monday, November 14, 2011

DIRTY ROOTS - What's In a Name?

For over six years now I've hosted the Dirty Roots Radio Show, where I "explore the twisted roots of American music". For a couple of years in the midst of that same time period, I also led a non-profit organization called the Dirty Roots Revolution. The charity's mission was "To empower individuals with the knowledge that one person can make a difference and to provide our communities with opportunities to be involved in making that difference."

Many people have asked where the name "Dirty Roots" originated...

The name Dirty Roots first started with my radio show. I came up with the name because I played all sorts of what is called American ‘roots’ music – like old blues, country, gospel, etc. I also played newer music that was influenced by the old styles of roots music. For example, a punk band whose sound was influenced by old country music. It’s hard to describe or characterize the music I play; it’s pretty far left of center and off the beaten path. I wanted to use the name to paint a picture of the roots of American music (where it came from, what influenced what we listen to today, etc.), and I imagined a whole twisted, intertwined system of channels that crisscrossed all over the place. The slogan for the show is “exploring the twisted roots of American music”.

I’m not sure why I went with “dirty” instead of “twisted”, really. Mainly, I just preferred the way “dirty” sounded. But I also liked the fact that it kind of pointed out that the music I play was really different and sometimes kind of hard to listen to and rough sounding.

One of the posters we made for the show has the following text at the top of it:

Dirty: Not clean or pure; containing impurities; not clear and bright; characterized by a husky, rasping, or raw tonal quality.

Roots: Something that is an origin (as of a condition or quality); the part by which an object is attached to something else.

The first spark of the non-profit part of Dirty Roots came on my show one night when I went on a big rant about how we could change the world if we really wanted to. People responded to it and me and some friends decided we should put wheels under the conversations we'd been having. I decided to keep the name “Dirty Roots” and slap “Revolution” on it, instead of “Radio”.

After I decided to use the name, I realized philosophy of “Dirty Roots” when it comes to music was similar to the philosophy of the non-profit. Many involved in the Dirty Roots Revolution were people of faith. From that perspective, the organization could be seen as call to put feet on your faith and go out and get your hands dirty; a new way of doing things, influenced by the old (Acts 2) way. From a non-faith perspective, it was getting back to the early American way of doing things; discussing important issues, making the changes we wanted to see and doing it ourselves, etc.

Plus, it’s kind of a catchy name and when I came up with it back in 2005, it just stuck. Nothing else sounded right. And since it’s so weird, it sticks in peoples’ mind, too.

“Dirty Roots” has kind of continued to be an evolving thing and has become a title for my own personal philosophy and worldview.

Tune in to Dirty Roots Radio every Thursday night from 8 to 10 p.m. (central) on WGRN 89.5 FM. Listen online from anywhere in the world at



***Logo and poster design by Bill Oberg

No comments:

Post a Comment