The Keepers
Lost & Found Sound and Voices of the Dust Bowl

Lost & Found Sound and Voices of the Dust Bowl

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Fish mongers recorded on the streets of Harlem in the 1930s. An 8-year-old girl’s impromptu news cast made on a toy recorder in a San Diego store. Lyndon Johnson talking to FBI director J. Edgar Hoover a week after President Kennedy’s assassination in 1963. Sounds lost and found.

As The Kitchen Sisters prepare to launch their new series The Keepers, about activist archivists, rogue librarians, curators, collectors, historians and the collections they keep, they re-visit their own “accidental archive” of recordings amassed over the years.

And Voices from the Dust Bowl, produced by Peabody Award winning producer Barrett Golding for the Lost & Found Sound series.

In the 1930s, hundreds of thousands of people from Oklahoma and Arkansas traveled to California, fleeing the dust storms and poverty of the Depression.

In the summer of 1940, Charles Todd was hired by the Library of Congress to visit the federal camps where many of these migrants lived, to create an audio oral history of their stories. Todd carried a 50-pound Presto recorder from camp to camp that summer, interviewing the migrant workers. He made hundreds of hours of recordings on acetate and cardboard discs. Todd was there at the same time that John Steinbeck was interviewing many of the same people in these camps, for research on a new novel called “The Grapes of Wrath.” Producer Barrett Golding went though this massive, rare collection of Todd’s recordings to create this story of the Dust Bowl refugees narrated by Charles Todd.

Episode #96: Cry Me a River — Keepers of the Environment

Episode #96: Cry Me a River — Keepers of the Environment

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The dramatic stories of three pioneering “Keepers” and environmental activists—Ken Sleight, Katie Lee, and Mark Dubois and the damming of wild rivers in the west.

Ken Sleight is a long time river and pack guide and activist in southern Utah who fought the damming of Glen Canyon and filling of Lake Powell from 1956-1966. An inspiration for Edward Abbey’s, Monkey Wrench Gang, Sleight is currently working on the campaign to remove Glen Canyon Dam.

Katie Lee, born in 1917, a former Hollywood starlet, ran the Colorado River through Glen Canyon long before it was dammed, and in 1955 was the 175th person to run the Grand Canyon. An outspoken conservationist, singer and writer, she spent her life fighting for rivers.

Mark Dubois, co-founder of Friends of the River, Earth Day and International Rivers Network, began as a river guide who opened up rafting trips to disabled people in the 1970s. Dubois protested the damming and flooding of the Stanislaus River by hiding himself in the river canyon and chaining himself to a rock as the water rose in 1979.

Bowled Over: A Look Back

Bowled Over: A Look Back

Dear Friends,

It was Friday, the day after Bowling with Grace. I was texting with Vinny Eng from Tartine Manufactory thanking them for the astounding cakes they contributed to the night and for the Tartine Bread and Portuguese wine as well. I was trying to describe what it meant to us, their love and support across the years, the sweetness and generosity of their contributions. “We are all friends walking each other home,” Vinny texted me. Nikki and I were in the middle of an edit with our NPR editor on the third story for our upcoming series, The KeepersArchive Fever: Henri Langlois and The Cinémathéque Française. I read Vinny’s quote to Nikki and Jacob, we all stopped and just took it in.

That’s exactly what it felt like in the Alley, in that magic space that is Mission Bowling Club, in the spell of Amazing Grace Mulloy and all who came to support her and The Kitchen Sisters. We were all friends, bowling each other home.

From the bottom of our bowling ball, thanks to everyone who came and everyone who contributed. Thank you to all the businesses in this community who helped support The Kitchen Sisters Amazing Auction and who provided food, drink and chocolate-covered bacon for the event. Thank you Cowgirl Creamery for stepping out and becoming Lead Sponsor. “Bowling with Cheese” was our code name for the night.


With Grace turning 95 this year our other code name for the night was “Summon the Elders.” The Elders must have heard us because they showed up in the form of two queens, legendary blues, jazz and folk singer Barbara Dane, 91 years old now, opening at Joe’s Pub next week. Barbara belted a verse of Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around that tore up the Bowling Alley. And the extraordinary Betty Reid Soskin, at 96, the oldest park ranger in the National Park Service, stationed at the Rosie the Riveter Museum in Richmond, a Civil Rights pioneer and social activist in the first circle.

Speaking of extraordinary, we were also graced by Bowlin’ Bonnie Raitt. Need we say more?

If we had been able to keep our wits about us during all this magic we would have introduced and congratulated Eleni Kounalakis who came to support The Sisters, who just ran a stunning primary campaign for California Lt. Governor and now goes into the November election the frontrunner. CONGRATULATIONS, Eleni. Don’t slow your roll.

And another thing — somehow the list of “Bowling Celebrities” got separated from the Cocktails created in their honor. Time to right that wrong.




Those of you who couldn’t join us this year, next year Grace will be 95. We thought this year was the last, but the night was such a blast Grace wants to do it one more time. See you Thursday night, June 6, 2019, Mission Bowling Club. Bowling with Grace: The Legend Continues.

One last thing. Don’t put your checkbooks away just yet. The Amazing Auction is going back online in a few days with a few treasured, surprise items. Trust us, you won’t want to miss it.

In the meantime, to fill the boredom between now and the Auction, SUBSCRIBE to our Webby Award-winning podcast, The Kitchen Sisters Present…

All of you who took photos and videos of the night, we’re starving to see them. Upload, please. Remember how Michael Pollan called us Keepers? We’re creating an Archive for god’s sake.

All you Amazing Auction winners, you’ll be hearing from us shortly. Congratulations and thank you for bidding up The Kitchen Sisters.

Keep it rolling,

Davia & Nikki, Brandi & Nathan


We leave you with this. Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who was on our minds daily as we summoned the elders, was unable to attend the fête, videotaped this poem to be shared that night. We share it with you and let Lawrence have the last word.

P.S. It’s not too late to contribute to our Bowling with Grace Fundraising Campaign. It’s your support that makes our stories possible. Thank you. You can donate here.


All non-vintage photos by Roman Cho.

Ep#93: Prince and the Technician

Ep#93: Prince and the Technician

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In 1983 Prince hired LA sound technician, Susan Rogers, one of the few women in the industry, to move to Minneapolis and help upgrade his home recording studio as he began work on the album and the movie Purple Rain. Susan, a trained technician with no sound engineering experience became the engineer of Purple Rain, Parade, Sign o’ the Times, and all that Prince recorded for the next four years. For those four years, and almost every year after, Prince recorded at least a song a day and they worked together for 24 hours, 36 hours, 96 hours at a stretch, layering and perfecting his music and his hot funky sound. We interviewed Susan, who is now a Professor at the Berklee School of Music in Boston, for our upcoming NPR series, The Keepers — about activist archivists, rogue librarians, collectors, curators and historians. It was Susan who started Prince’s massive archive during her time with the legendary artist.


Ep #92 – The Working Tapes of Studs Terkel

Ep #92 – The Working Tapes of Studs Terkel

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In the early 1970s, radio producer and author Studs Terkel wrote a book called Working. He went around the country with a reel-to-reel tape recorder interviewing people about their jobs. The book became a bestseller and even inspired a Broadway musical. Working struck a nerve, because it elevated the stories of ordinary people and their daily lives. Studs celebrated the un-celebrated.

Radio Diaries and their partner Project& were given exclusive access to these recordings, which were boxed up and stored away after the book was published. Stories of a private investigator, a union worker, a telephone operator, a hotel piano player, and more.

As The Kitchen Sisters warm up for our new series “The Keepers,” stories of activist archivists, rogue librarians, historians, collectors, curators—keepers of the culture—we share these stories gathered by the ultimate Keeper: Studs Terkel.

Notes from The Kitchen Sisterhood / Spring 2018

Notes from The Kitchen Sisterhood / Spring 2018


Dear Friends,

These Notes spring from a recording session we did last week in the basement studio of American Zoetrope where The Kitchen Sisters SF HQ is located. We were rehearsing the story we’re presenting on the Radiotopia Live 6-city East Coast tour that starts on Monday.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti, the legendary poet and proprietor of City Lights Bookstore, was in the studio when we arrived. For over a decade now, Lawrence, who just turned 99, has come into the studio almost every week with our sound engineer, Jim McKee, to record hundreds of his poems. They thought their work was complete, but about a week ago Lawrence realized there was one poem from his book A Coney Island of the Mind that he had missed. “I Am Waiting.” Lawrence stayed for our rehearsal, gave us his seal of approval and asked if he could jump on the bus as we roll from Atlanta to Boston.

There’s a lot of people’s projects in these Notes and a lot of news from The Kitchen Sisters. But at this moment, the most important item to us, is Lawrence’s poem. Lawrence wrote it some 60 years ago, but you’d swear it was yesterday. We hope you will take a moment and read it, maybe even aloud.

We hope to see lots of you at Mission Bowling Club in San Francisco on June 7th! And hope to see the rest of you on the road on the Radiotopia Live Tour, May 7-13.

Keep it rolling…

Davia & Nikki
The Kitchen Sisters

Radiotopia Live East Coast Tour

The Kitchen Sisters Present… and 6 more of your favorite Radiotopia shows go live on the road for a night of podcast magic. Host, Roman Mars. Come find us. Atlanta + Durham + DC + Brooklyn + New York + Boston. May 7-13. Get tickets here:

What We’re Watching


Hale County, This Morning, This Evening, a quiet, moving documentary from the Black Belt of Alabama. The first film by RaMell Ross. Lyrical, evocative, intimate moments of people in a struggling community.

Garry Winogrand: All Things Are Photographable. The legendary street photographer Garry Winogrand left 10,000 rolls of undeveloped film when he died suddenly at age 56. Director Sasha Waters Freyer dives deep into the life and art of this visionary.

Wild Wild Country, directed by Chapman and Maclain Way on Netflix


The Gangster of Love, a new play by Jessica Hagedorn now at the Magic Theater

Three Tall Women, written by Edward Albee at John Golden Theatre. Glenda Jackson, Laurie Metcalf & Alison Pill, need we say more?

Father Comes Home From the Wars, Parts I, II, III: A new American Odyssey by Suzan-Lori Parks at ACT, SF

Books on our Shelf

“It was late October 2012 and Hurricane Sandy was coming up from the south. It began as a tropical wave in the western Caribbean and quickly morphed into the biggest Atlantic hurricane on record. I had rushed back to the city to be with Lou when it made landfall. We watched the storm as it blew in across the Hudson River. Then the black water rose up over the banks, crossed the highway and turned our street into a dark silky river. 

Two days later I went down to the basement to have a look at the equipment and materials I had assumed were soaked but still salvageable. Nothing was left. The seawater had shredded and pulped everything. Even the electronic equipment was now a lumpy gray sludge. At first I was devastated. The next day I realized I would never have to clean the basement again…”

From All the Things I Lost in the Flood by Laurie Anderson

A Reckoning by Linda Spalding

How to Change Your Mind: The New Science of Psychedelics by Michael Pollan

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century by Jessica Bruder

You Are Mighty: A Guide to Changing the World by Caroline Paul illustrated by Lauren Tamaki

The Historian As Detective: Essays on Evidence, Robin W. Winks, Editor

This Immeasurable Place: Food and Farming from the Edge of Wilderness, Recipe’s from Hell’s Backbone Grill by Blake Spaulding & Jennifer Castle with Lavinia Spalding

Fly Ranch, Nevada: In 2016, Larry Harvey and The Burning Man Project purchased 3,800 acres some 30 miles from where the annual Burning Man Festival takes place. Part of the vision behind the purchase is to expand the ten principles at the heart of Burning Man — civic responsibility, communal effort, gifting, immediacy, radical self-expression…  On Saturday, Larry Harvey went to The Big Playa in the Sky. What a vision of ritual and community he inspired.

“Larry Harvey, the guru-like driving force behind Burning Man, the globally celebrated anti-establishment, anti-consumerist festival that he and a friend began 32 years ago on a San Francisco beach, died on Saturday at a hospital in San Francisco. He was 70.” Read the New York Times obituary of this Nebraska born visionary.

How One Museum Curator Is Bringing Burning Man Out of the Desert
The outré scene of unrestrained revelry and cutting-edge art in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert comes to the Smithsonian.

Keepers We’re Following

The National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama

Events and Exhibitions We’re Attending (or Wish We Were)

New Strands Festival, A New Thao Nguyen Musical Project, ACT, May 19

Glen Canyon: A River Guide Remembers. Legendary river man, Ken Sleight is at the center of this homage to Glen Canyon. Opening night at John Wesley Powell River History Museum in Green River, Utah, Friday, May 4

Hiroshi Sugimoto, B.C. at Fraenkel Gallery, SF. Just closed. Dang. But Janet Cardiff & George Bures Miller’s The Poetry Machine and Other Works opens Thursday, May 3. And you know we would walk on hot coals to hear/see their installations. 40 Motets was one powerful, exhilarating, haunting experience.

Bowling Parties We’re Throwing

Bowling with GraceThe Kitchen Sisters 3rd Annual Bowling Party and Fundraiser, Thursday, June 7, Mission Bowling Club, San Francisco.

Come bowl or come hang with a whole new array of Celebrity BowlersAlice Waters, Cecilia Chiang, Rebecca Solnit, Michael Pollan, Judith Belzer, Wendy MacNaughton, Armistead Maupin, Ayelet Waldman, Amy Tan and more. Come for the shoes or come for the schmooze.  

All funds support our new series, The Keepers — stories of activist archivists, rogue librarians, collectors, curators, and historians — keepers of the culture and the cultures and collections they keep. The Keepers premieres on NPR’s Morning Edition this June.

Get tickets here

I Am Waiting
by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

I am waiting for my case to come up
and I am waiting
for a rebirth of wonder
and I am waiting for someone
to really discover America
and wail
and I am waiting   
for the discovery
of a new symbolic western frontier   
and I am waiting   
for the American Eagle
to really spread its wings
and straighten up and fly right
and I am waiting
for the Age of Anxiety
to drop dead
and I am waiting
for the war to be fought
which will make the world safe
for anarchy
and I am waiting
for the final withering away
of all governments
and I am perpetually awaiting
a rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for the Second Coming   
and I am waiting
for a religious revival
to sweep thru the state of Arizona   
and I am waiting
for the Grapes of Wrath to be stored   
and I am waiting
for them to prove
that God is really American
and I am waiting
to see God on television
piped onto church altars
if only they can find   
the right channel   
to tune in on
and I am waiting
for the Last Supper to be served again
with a strange new appetizer
and I am perpetually awaiting
a rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for my number to be called
and I am waiting
for the Salvation Army to take over
and I am waiting
for the meek to be blessed
and inherit the earth   
without taxes
and I am waiting
for forests and animals
to reclaim the earth as theirs
and I am waiting
for a way to be devised
to destroy all nationalisms
without killing anybody
and I am waiting
for linnets and planets to fall like rain
and I am waiting for lovers and weepers
to lie down together again
in a new rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for the Great Divide to be crossed   
and I am anxiously waiting
for the secret of eternal life to be discovered   
by an obscure general practitioner
and I am waiting
for the storms of life
to be over
and I am waiting
to set sail for happiness
and I am waiting
for a reconstructed Mayflower
to reach America
with its picture story and tv rights
sold in advance to the natives
and I am waiting
for the lost music to sound again
in the Lost Continent
in a new rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for the day
that maketh all things clear
and I am awaiting retribution
for what America did   
to Tom Sawyer   
and I am waiting
for Alice in Wonderland
to retransmit to me
her total dream of innocence
and I am waiting
for Childe Roland to come
to the final darkest tower
and I am waiting   
for Aphrodite
to grow live arms
at a final disarmament conference
in a new rebirth of wonder

I am waiting
to get some intimations
of immortality
by recollecting my early childhood
and I am waiting
for the green mornings to come again   
youth’s dumb green fields come back again
and I am waiting
for some strains of unpremeditated art
to shake my typewriter
and I am waiting to write
the great indelible poem
and I am waiting
for the last long careless rapture
and I am perpetually waiting
for the fleeing lovers on the Grecian Urn   
to catch each other up at last
and embrace
and I am awaiting   
perpetually and forever
a renaissance of wonder


A renaissance of wonder




Bowling with Grace: The 3rd Annual Kitchen Sisters Bowling Party & Fundraiser

Bowling with Grace: The 3rd Annual Kitchen Sisters Bowling Party & Fundraiser


Amazing Grace Mulloy returns to San Francisco for the Third Annual Kitchen Sisters Bowling Party, Fundraiser & Keepers NPR Launch Celebration.

As you know, Grace is one rough tough cream puff, who brings the wisdom of the ages to the alley to help up your game and ours. Grace, who turns 95 this year has won most every bowling trophy there is in Santa Maria, California. Legally blind, she’s a life-long bowler with a lot of tricks up her sleeve and is currently in two leagues. Last week she bowled twice and scored 199 in one of the games.

The only thing Grace likes more than bowling is her granddaughter, Brandi (who works with The Kitchen Sisters) and public radio.

This year’s Bowling Extravaganza is also a launch party for The Kitchen Sisters new NPR Morning Edition series, The Keepers — stories of activist archivists, rogue librarians, curators, collectors and historians — keepers of the culture and the cultures and collections they keep.  The series starts airing in June so we’ll do a sneak peak and celebrate.

Come bowl or just come hang. Drinks, music and food will flow. All lanes will be ours and all proceeds will go to supporting the stories in The Keepers, our internship & mentoring program and our Webby Award-winning Podcast, The Kitchen Sisters Present…

Come join a sparkling array of Bowling Celebrities—Alice Waters, Cecilia Chiang, Rebecca Solnit, Michael Pollan, Judith Belzer, Wendy MacNaughton, Armistead Maupin, Ayelet Waldman, Amy Tan—along with Nikki and Davia and a ton of your community for a night of bowling with Grace as she shares her methods and secrets.

Come for the schmooze or come for the shoes.

$175. Includes food, drinks and all the bowling you can stand.

Get your tickets now through Eventbrite.

If you can’t come bowl with Grace but still want to support the work of The Kitchen Sisters, you can:

We thank you all for your stories and support.

Thursday June 7, 6-10 pm
Mission Bowling Club
3176 17th Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

Buy Tickets Now

Episode #85: House of Night: The Lost Creation Songs of the Mojave People

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The story of an aging pile of forgotten reel-to-reel tapes discovered on the shelf of a tribal elder on the Fort Mojave Reservation. Recorded by an amateur ethnographer in the 1960s, these tapes of the last Creation Song singer of the tribe recount the legends and origin of the Mojave people. They are oral maps of the desert region that were instrumental in helping to save the Ward Valley from becoming a nuclear waste dump site.

In the 1960s, a CBS radio engineer out of Los Angeles, drove out to the Colorado River Indian Reservation in Parker, Arizona with his portable reel-to-reel tape recorder with the idea of recording the Mojave Indians. There he met Emmett Van Fleet, an elder of the tribe and the last of the Creation Song singers. Over the course of several years, Guy Tyler made his weekend pilgrimages, and slowly and meticulously the two men recorded the 525 song cycle that recounts the legend of the creation and origin of the Mojave people, their traditions, and their oral maps that describe historical journeys, sacred sites, and directions about how to safely cross the Mojave Desert. Emmett Van Fleet left the tapes to his nephew Llewllyn Barrackman. As years went by and technology changed, the tapes were unplayed and forgotten until Phillip Klasky and the Storyscape Project worked to get the the tapes transferred and preserved.

In 1995, when action was taken to turn Ward Valley into a nuclear waste dump, traditional Mojave songs and song cycles helped save the endangered Ward Valley and Colorado River by proving the historic connection the Mojave have with this sacred land.

In 1999 The Kitchen Sisters travelled to the Mojave Reservation with writer and environmentalist Phil Klasky, to meet with LLewllyn Barrackman and other Mojave elders, birdsong singers and activists in the Ward Valley struggle.

Produced with Phillip Klasky, Director of the Storyscape Project.

Coming in 2018: The Keepers / Help Meet Our Match

Coming in 2018: The Keepers / Help Meet Our Match


“People are always like, ‘Tell us why you like libraries.’ And it’s like why you like food — because it keeps you alive.”   — Colson Whitehead

Dear Friends,

Greetings at year’s end. We write to wish you well and to thank you for your support and spirit. We are about to embark on a new NPR and podcast series, The Keepers — stories of activist archivists, rogue librarians, curators, collectors and historians. Keepers of the culture and the cultures and collections they keep. Guardians of history, large and small, protectors of the free flow of information and ideas, eccentric individuals who take it upon themselves to preserve some part of our cultural heritage. The Keepers will premiere on Morning Edition, with a listenership of some 14 million people, early in 2018.

A generous group of donors, The Council of Keepers, including Susan Sillins, Susie Franklin, Barbara & Howard Wollner, has committed a matching challenge of $30,000 to bring these stories to air and inspire our supporters. Please help us raise this match.

This new series promises to be one of our most timely and powerful — a series of truth-seeking, richly layered, lushly produced stories that you, our community, make possible. We ask for your support for this new, compelling collection of stories and invite your tips and suggestions for who and what needs chronicling.

Please make a tax-deductible contribution to The Kitchen Sisters Productions today. With The Council of Keepers match your gift will be doubled.

Thank you for supporting the stories.

Nikki & Davia



Photo courtesy of Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County

Support the Stories / An Archival Calling

Support the Stories / An Archival Calling

Photo postcard of Annie Wooten, circa 1920s from the Amistad Research Center, Tulane University

Photo postcard of Annie Wooten, circa 1920s from the Amistad Research Center, Tulane University

“My archival calling was, I believe, part of my spiritual calling.”
-Brenda Billups Square

Last week, we shared a story from New Orleans. The story of Leona Tate, who as a six-year-old was one of the first African American children to integrate an all-white school in New Orleans. Today we share a moment from a story about Brenda Billups Square, co-pastor of Beecher Memorial Congregational United Church of Christ and an archivist documenting New Orleans.

In 2018, we will be spending many hours with people like Brenda, as we embark on a new series for NPR called The Keepers — stories of activist archivists, rogue librarians, collectors, curators and historians — keepers of the culture and the culture and collections they keep.

We are asking for your support to help create this rich, surprising, timely series about the people and stories behind collecting and protecting our history and culture.