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The Camerman Behind Kuralt

NOTE: This blog entry originally appeared in October 2009


 By Andy Kubis, Producer

Charles Kuralt wrote in his autobiography that “working with a cameraman over a period of weeks or months is like having a love affair. You have to like him to begin with. And then you have to woo him to keep him from running off with some other reporter.” For more than 25 years, Kuralt successfully wooed Isadore (Izzy) Bleckman, about half of them while sharing a motor home, criss-crossing America documenting life on the back roads. The resulting vignettes became On the Road, a 20-year series now available on DVD for the first time.  And on today’s show, Bleckman shares his own behind-the-scenes stories from his life on the road. 

The stories Kuralt and Bleckman tell make you feel good. One of my favorites is about a son of a sharecropper in Arkansas who declared war on his own ignorance. He read 12 hours a day, mostly nonfiction. Descartes, Socrates and Shakespeare were his favorites. He told Kuralt that the more Agatha Burgess, friend to manhe learned, the more he realized how much he has left to learn. I feel like that every day.

Another of my favorites profiles an 80-year-old woman who had spent the last 15 years cooking meals for anyone who wanted to come by to eat them. She made some meals for shut-ins and the rest for anyone who showed up at her house. The cost was $2 and it was all on the honor system (she left a box on a table for people to make their own change). She tells Kuralt that the only thing she wanted in life was to “live in a house by the side of the road and be a friend to man.” And that seems to be the common thread in the stories. Kuralt often said that he and Bleckman and the rest of the On the Road crew had the very best job in journalism for a time. And Izzy Bleckman doesn’t disagree.

The On the Road series is available for purchase for the first time at It’s also available at Amazon and other retailers.

(This week we’re revisiting some of our favorite interviews from 2009. Again, the listener comments from the original broadcast a couple of months ago are included below. Feel free to add to them, whether you heard this back in October or are meeting Izzy Bleckman for the first time today.) 


Rodney Crowell and Mary Karr are "Kin"

NOTE: This blog entry originally appeared in July 2012

Bob talks with Grammy-winning musician Rodney Crowell and best-selling author and poet Mary Karr about their new musical collaboration. The two artists grew up a few years and a few dozen miles apart in east Texas, but when Crowell and Karr finally met in person a decade ago, they learned that their childhoods were very similar. The two clicked instantly and formed a deep and lasting bond. They co-wrote the ten songs on their CD and say they have plenty more material in the vault. The album is called Kin which explains how they feel about each other and signals that these songs are about “their people.” The songs are performed by Crowell, who sings most of the male stories, with a little help from Vince Gill and Kris Kristofferson, while the female-centric songs are voiced by Norah Jones, Lucinda Williams, Lee Ann Womack, Emmylou Harris and Rosanne Cash (who is Rodney’s ex-wife). Bob also talks with Crowell about his memoir – Chinaberry Sidewalks – which is now available in paperback. Mary Karr is a professor at Syracuse University (in fact she is the Peck Professor of English Literature), a poet (she’s working on a new collection now) and a memoirist herself.  The Liar’s Club, Cherry and Lit all told about her experiences of growing up hard and growing up fast.

Click here to read more about Rodney Crowell.


The Bob Edwards Show Schedule (March 23-27, 2015)


Monday, March 23, 2015: Bob talks with Grammy-winning musician Rodney Crowell and best-selling author Mary Karr about their musical collaboration. The two artists grew up a few years and a few dozen miles apart in east Texas, but when Crowell and Karr met in person a decade ago, they learned that their childhoods were very similar. Their CD is called Kin which explains how they feel about each other and signals that these songs are about “their people.” Bob also talks with Crowell about his memoir – Chinaberry Sidewalks – which is available in paperback.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015:  Bob spends some quality time with Carol Kaye and her bass guitar. Kaye was THE session bassist of the 1960s and 70s, playing on dozens and dozens of hits for the likes of The Beach Boys, Ritchie Valens, Simon & Garfunkel, The Supremes, Ray Charles and the Monkees. It’s estimated that Kaye has been involved with more than ten-thousand recording sessions in her career. Kaye and her bass are also responsible for the distinctive bass notes of the Mission Impossible theme and for many other film scores and TV themes. Today is Kaye’s 80th birthday.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015: Mark Boyle lives without cash and he manages just fine with his off-the-grid caravan, solar laptop and toothpaste made from washed-up cuttlefish bones. Boyle was a successful businessman but he became disillusioned with society’s obsession with money. So in 2008, he decided to try living for a year with no money at all and as far as we can tell, he’s still at it. Boyle tells the story in his book titled, Moneyless Man.  Beginning in 1967, Charles Kuralt headed out with a small crew to document unusual and overlooked stories from America’s back roads.  Logging more than a million miles and going through six motor homes, the resulting vignettes became On the Road, a 20-year-series now available as a collection on DVD.  Isadore (Izzy) Bleckman was Kuralt’s cameraman for more than 25 years, and he shares his stories from their time together.

Thursday, March 26, 2015: Bob & Ray were a comedy duo who began on local radio in Boston in the 1940’s.  Bob Elliott and Ray Goulding enjoyed tremendous national success for decades were admired for their timeless humor and satire until Ray’s death in 1990.  Bob Elliott is here to talk about their four decades of partnership on his 92nd birthday.  Then, Bob & Ray’s last producer was Larry Josephson, who is now the curator of their sound archive and founder of the Radio Foundation.   Josephson discusses the 5-hour, 4-CD collection of classic Bob & Ray routines.

Friday, March 27, 2015: Still Within the Sound of My Voice is the latest release from musician Jimmy Webb.  He has written many well-known classics for other musicians including “Wichita Lineman,” “MacArthur Park,” “Up, Up and Away,” and “All I Know.”   Several artists he’s written songs for are now repaying the favor with guest appearances on his album.  Those guests include Lyle Lovett, Carly Simon, Keith Urban, Joe Cocker, Kris Kristofferson and Art Garfunkel.  Webb is the first and only artist to receive Grammys for music, lyrics and orchestration.



Bob Edwards Weekend (March 20-21, 2015)


Washington Post editor Steven Levingston’s new paperback, Little Demon in the City of Light: A True Story of Murder and Mesmerism in Belle Epoque Paris, tells the largely forgotten story of young Gabrielle Bompard.  Accused of murdering a wealthy Frenchman, Bompard claimed that she was under hypnosis. Her trial was one of the most hotly debated cases in Paris at the turn of the 20th century.

Major League Baseball’s opening day is just two weeks away.  And right now, in Florida and Arizona, hundreds of players are fighting to make a big league roster. But most of them will land somewhere else. Bob talks with sports writer John Feinstein about his book Where Nobody Knows Your Name: Life in the Minor Leagues of Baseball. It’s just out in paperback.



Spring is officially here and whether you hate them or love them, pigeons are everywhere. Bob talks to Andrew Blechman about his book Pigeons: The Fascinating Saga of the World’s Most Revered and Reviled Bird.

Conservationist and founder of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, Dave Goulson found his passion for bees as a young boy in rural England.  His book, A Sting in the Tale: My Adventures with Bumblebees, looks at why bees worldwide are declining and what we can do about it.

That takes care of the birds and the bees – now for some bonus bugs.  Bob talks with Peter Laufer about his book The Dangerous World of Butterflies: The Startling Subculture of Criminals, Collectors, and Conservationists.  It touches on the relationships between butterflies and organized crime, ecological devastation, species depletion, the integrity of natural history museums and the art world.


The Bob Edwards Show Schedule (March 16-20, 2015)

Monday, March 16, 2015: Two weeks after Catherine “Kitty” Genovese was brutally murdered in 1964, the New York Times published a detailed account of what happened: For more than half an hour 38 respectable, law-abiding citizens in Queens watched a killer stalk and stab a woman in three separate attacks. Not one person telephoned the police during the assault; one witness called after the woman was dead. Five decades later, Kevin Cook takes a closer look at the details of the case in a book titled Kitty Genovese: The Murder, the Bystanders, the Crime That Changed America. It’s just come out in paperback. Then, Bob talks with director Alex Gibney about his documentary called The Human Behavior Experiments which explores persistent questions about why we commit deeply unethical acts under certain social conditions. Gibney features the Genovese murder in his documentary as well.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015:  Washington Post editor Steven Levingston’s new paperback, Little Demon in the City of Light: A True Story of Murder and Mesmerism in Belle Epoque Paris, tells the largely forgotten story of young Gabrielle Bompard.  Accused of murdering a wealthy Frenchman, Bompard claimed that she was under hypnosis.  Her trial was one of the most hotly debated cases in Paris at the turn of the 20th century.  Then, a little something to mark St. Patrick’s Day.  In 1962, musician Paddy Moloney founded a traditional Irish music group called The Chieftains.  Now, this Grammy-winning ensemble has produced 40 albums and is responsible for sharing Irish music with the world.  Moloney talked with Bob three years ago, when The Chieftains marked their 50th anniversary with the release of a CD titled Voice of Ages, a collaboration with Bon Iver, The Decemberists, the Punch Brothers and many other contemporary musicians.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015: Mary Louise Kelly has spent the last two decades as a producer, host and correspondent for NPR and the BBC.  In 2004, she launched NPR’s intelligence beat, which covered wars and terrorism, and included reporting trips to The Pentagon, CIA headquarters and warzones.  Now she has drawn on all of that real-world knowledge to become a novelist.  Her brand new book is a thriller and a medical mystery story titled The Bullet.  Bob also talked with Kelly in 2013 about her debut novel…Anonymous Sources.

Thursday, March 19, 2015: Bob talks with Philip Roth who claims that his two closest friends are “sheer playfulness” and “deadly seriousness.”  Both are routinely found in his writing from his first novella,Goodbye, Columbus (1959), to his best-known work Portnoy’s Complaint (1969), to his more recent ‘American Trilogy’ which includes the books American PastoralI Married a Communist and The Human Stain.   In 2008, Roth was here to discuss his career and his 29th book titled Indignation. It’s set during the second year of the Korean War and the narrator is Marcus Messner, a 19-year-old son of a Newark kosher butcher. Today is Roth’s 82 birthday.  It’s also the anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq – that war started on March 19, 2003 – with shock and awe broadcast live on television around the world.

Friday, March 20, 2015: We go way back in the archives today for Bob’s conversation with comedy legend Carl Reiner. He created, wrote, and produced The Dick Van Dyke Show and collaborated with Mel Brooks on The 2000 Year old Man. Reiner is not quite that old, but today is his 93rd birthday. He discussed his life and career and his book titled NNNNN: A Novel.  Today is also Spike Lee’s birthday.  He has made feature films and documentaries about race relations, urban crime, poverty and political issues.  And he doesn’t just let his movies speak for themselves.  Bob talks with the New York Knicks superfan about his film career, from She’s Gotta Have It to Do the Right Thing to When the Levees Broke.  Lee was here in 2008 to  discuss his World War Two drama titled Miracle at St. Anna.