- 10 May 19
The duo will explore the history of rock 'n' roll on a journey from County Down to landmarks of musical importance in America.
Thin Lizzy and Black Star Riders frontman Ricky Warwick and broadcaster-slash-music history buff Ralph McLean have joined forces to present Rock ‘n’ Roll Highway. The film follows the pair as they travel from County Down to California, exploring the evolution of rock ‘n’ roll at various stops along the way. Rock ‘n’ Roll Highway will air on Sunday 19 May at 9.45 pm on BBC Two Northern Ireland.
Warwick, a Newtownards native who moved to Scotland as a teen, grew up with classic mid-century American voices: Hank Williams, Jerry Lee, Patsy Cline and Elvis Presley all influenced his emerging taste in music. But how did those Americans and their tunes make it to Northern Ireland, and how did the folk songs and musical tradition of the Ulster-Scots influence the birth of rock ‘n’ roll in America, a genre also born from African-American blues traditions?
Rock ‘n’ Roll Highway seeks to answer these questions. Beginning on the Ards Peninsula and heading to America, the duo trace the paths of Ulster-Scots immigrants and American musical legends, stopping everywhere from the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia, where many Ulster-Scots migrants settled, to Elvis Presley’s birthplace and Patsy Cline’s house, where Ricky and Ralph chat to Patsy’s daughter, Julie.
Along the way, performances with the guests Ricky and Ralph meet demonstrate the viable connection between American and Ulster-Scot music.
Other contributors who join Ricky and Ralph during their journey include: Grammy winner Rodney Crowell; bluegrass legend Mike Compton; County Antrim-born musician Ben Glover; singer-songwriter, Beth Nielsen Chapman and Ulster-Scots historian, Mark Thompson.
“Making Rock ‘n’ Roll Highway was an incredible experience and an extremely educational journey for me,” says Ricky. “Connecting the Ulster-Scots heritage from the first settlers all the way to modern rock ‘n’ roll was an insight into how music has been the cornerstone, inspiration and solace for generations.”
“Making Rock ‘n’ Roll Highway was a dream gig for me,” adds Ralph. “From the very first moment I heard Hank, Elvis and Johnny Cash on my mother's old radio in the kitchen when I was a kid, I've been desperate to find out more about it. I felt a connection with this music and I wanted to know why it felt so strong. What did Ulster-Scots settlers bring to America that made that sound so powerful? It's been a lifelong obsession.”
You can catch Rock 'n' Roll Highway on Sunday 19 May on BBC Two Northern Ireland.