Dave Hoekstra, a big Route 66 fan for much of his 30-year career at the Chicago Sun-Times, is producing a film series about unheralded rich music scenes in the United States, including Springfield, Missouri.
Titled “Song of an Unsung America,” the film series delves into Springfield’s importance as the site of television’s “Ozark Jubilee” and decades of producing notable music acts such as Brenda Lee, Speedy West, The Jordanaires, King’s X, the Ozark Mountain Daredevils, The Skeletons and The Morells.
A longtime resident was producer Lou Whitney, who kept a studio in downtown Springfield for many years and guided hundreds of albums. Whitney died in 2014 of cancer.
Here’s a trailer about Springfield. As you’ll see, Route 66 makes a prominent appearance:
The footage also is notable for including an interview with country-music legend Merle Haggard before his death last year.
Hoekstra spoke to the Springfield News-Leader this week. He said he also wants to shoot more footage of the city’s current music scene.
Hoekstra said he and producer Jamie Ceaser hope to complete the Springfield documentary later this year, though it’s a labor of love that’s largely self-financed.
“I’m paying my (video) editor myself,” he said.
Down the road, he plans to document more overlooked regional music scenes from across the United States including the beach music culture of the Carolinas.
Hoekstra also recently talked to the Chicago Tribune about his project:
Hoekstra first visited Springfield some 15 years ago for a story he was writing. He has since been back “at least nine times, a solid eight-hour drive each way.” Each trip, some in the company of pals with cameras and sound equipment, solidified his feeling that the city had an important story to tell, one that went beyond music.
“We aren’t just interested in playing songs created in this neglected pocket of regional music, though they are essential to the story,” said Hoekstra. “It is about how the air, food, history, religion, geography all combine to create a sense of place and contribute to the creation of the music.”
(Screen capture from the music video “Reds” by The Morells)