WGBH series finale features music of Tommy Keene
Theout-of-the-blue online phenomenon of Hitand Run History continues to smash the wall between pop culture and history.
In amusical coup, the Gumshoe Historians at WGBH have landed Tommy Keene. Theoriginal indie power-pop artist's "Places That Are Gone" will be featured inthe finale of the PBS-powerhouse's web series "Hit and Run History: The Columbia Expedition."
"Thisis a dream come true," says Andrew Buckley, series creator and host. "I first saw Tommy Keene sing ‘PlacesThat Are Gone' at a concert in a record store in 1984. As a campus DJ at AmericanUniversity, I heard it everywhere, and it stuck with me."
Being able to use the track marks a breakthrough in the series. Keene's EP was voted #1 in the Village Voice Pop & Jazz poll, and received four stars from Rolling Stone. As proof the song's staying power, eight years later Keene would be performing "Places That Are Gone" during Conan O'Brien's first season.
Theseries at the centerpiece of WGBH's History page, Hit And Run History is profilingcharacters in the story of the Columbia Expedition - the first American voyage Voice Pop & Jazz poll, and received four stars from Rolling Stone. As proof around the world. Leavingpost-Revolutionary War Boston in 1787, this risky private trading venture wasfinanced and crewed by former privateers, slavers, refugees and POW's. Buckley and his crew have been takingaudiences on the road to tell their stories in a hip, approachable fashion.
"It'ssnackable history," says WGBH's Kyanna Sutton, who first raised the idea ofbringing the series to the station. "And the use of local bands together with music video-style pacingreally sets Hitand Run History apart."
Localmusic has been a key element to the series' success. Boston's Shea Rose (featured on the December 9 broadcast of WCVB's Chronicle)and Sidewalk Driver join RhodeIsland's Mark Cutler and Jenn Vix on episodes throughout theseries.
ButBuckley nursed the idea that notoriety would open the door to favorite songsthat would truly resonate. "‘Places That Are Gone' works well for a history show, doesn't it?"
Keene also resonates withthe other musicians. "His power pop paved the way," says Rose. And Cutler notes, "'Places That Are Gone' was one of myfavorite songs in the 1980's. It's great to have my songs sitting beside hisand the other talented folks whose music graces Hit and Run History."
For the ten-episode series, Hit and Run History has been using the Columbiaand Washington medal as a touchstone. The names of those profiled appear on the coin - the rarest of allAmerican medals. In the seriesopener, "The Medallion", the Massachusetts Historical Society opens its vaultsto show off their copies.
Inthe series finale, "The Auction", the crew learns that one of the remainingtwenty of these medals is going up for sale in Philadelphia. In their trademark "Gumshoe Historian" style, they headdown to the auction, interviewing experts and stumbling upon clues to theirstory along the way. Throughout,"Places That Are Gone" moves the action ahead.
Buckley is theforemost authority on the Columbia Expedition. The Cape Codder hasfollowed the story since 1995, starting with research for his novel The Bostoner. To bring this little-known topic to younger audiences, he began Hit and Run History in 2008. Its two full episodes have won over a dozen Massachusetts CulturalCouncil Grants.
Up next, Hit and Run History will continue following the track of Columbia. Having hit Cape Verde in their second full episode (aired this spring), they plan on reaching the Falklands and Cape Horn in spring of 2011. Buckley observes, "The sort of attention we're getting with WGBH and Tommy Keene will definitely help us get there."
For more information about Hit and Run History, the Columbia Expedition or John Kendrick, check their Facebook fan page.
Image of the Columbia and Washington medal courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society.