The Joe Hill Road Show

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Precursor to Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, and Bruce Springsteen, Joe Hill was an early twentieth-century songwriter and active member of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), or Wobblies. A Swedish immigrant and outspoken labor activist, Hill was framed for two murders and executed by a firing squad in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1915. According to an event press release, “The case drew international attention and appeals for clemency from U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, Helen Keller, the Swedish ambassador, the American Federation of Labor, and many others. After his execution, Hill became a labor icon.”

The Nashville-based Shelby Bottom Duo, consisting of acoustic folk artists Michael August and Nell Levin (, created this entertaining and educational performance to highlight a “vital slice of labor history with a wide range of people so that we can all better understand why the revolutionary creativity of Joe Hill and the Wobblies is still relevant.” This event will include a live concert of Joe Hill songs, a slideshow of historical images, and information about Hill’s life, early labor struggles, and the influence of the IWW’s innovative organizing strategies on labor and other movements today. This one-hour performance will be followed by a discussion with the Shelby Bottom Duo about art, music, labor history, and activism. The “Joe Hill Road Show” CD will be available for purchase.

With support from the Tennessee Arts Commission, Humanities Tennessee, Metro Nashville Arts Commission, and Puffin Foundation, the Shelby Bottom Duo has performed the “Joe Hill Road Show” on over twenty occasions, including at Vanderbilt University, the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, Sewanee, Middle Tennessee State, Austin Peay, Tennessee State, and the University of Memphis.