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Charlie Haden: A Bassist With A Country Pedigree

Charlie Haden sang with his musical family from the time he was just 2 years old.
Rafa Rivas/AFP
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Charlie Haden sang with his musical family from the time he was just 2 years old.

This interview was originally broadcast on Sept. 24, 2008.

Bassist Charlie Haden is known as a great jazz musician, but his lineage is all country: Growing up, he performed alongside his brothers and sister in the Haden Family Band, a country group led by his parents, Carl and Virginia. The group's music played on radio stations in the South and Midwest, and on the family's country radio show, broadcast on KMA in Shenandoah, Iowa.

In a 2008 interview with Terry Gross, Haden remembers joining his family in their radio broadcasts from a very young age.

"My mom told me this story. She was rocking me to sleep, I [was] 22 months old and she's humming all these hillbilly songs and all of a sudden I start humming the harmony. And she said 'Wow, you're ready for the show,'" he recalled. "Every day was a great experience for me. I just loved it. ... We did our radio show from our farmhouse and my brothers and sisters would do the chores, milk the cows, come in and have breakfast and then my dad would crank the phone on the wall to let the engineer in Springfield, Missouri know that we were ready to do the show."

Since then, Haden has made a career in jazz, but his 2008 album, a bluegrass collection called Rambling Boy, returns to his country roots. The album features a host of guests artists, including Vince Gill, Rosanne Cash and Elvis Costello, as well as Haden's wife, four children and son-in-law, actor Jack Black.

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