The Making of "Hot Tamale Louie"

On April 10, from 4:00 to 5:00 pm, at the Iowa City Public Library, UI Music Professor and jazz musician John Rapson and fellow musicians Dave Moore and Daniel Gaglione will talk about their collaborative process in creating Hot Tamale Louie, a genre-bending production, which they and a larger cast of musicians will perform on April 20.

Based on a fantastical but true story published in The New Yorker magazine last summer regarding a young Afghani who left his home near the Khyber Pass, wandered through India, and ended up years later in Sheridan, Wyoming, Rapson has created a production about immigration and citizenship like no other. Including lilting Western ballads, gentle Mexican waltzes, folk songs and melodies from the East, evocative tone poems, and raucous ragtime melded together by jazz, Hot Tamale Louie has something for everyone. 

In this Obermann Conversation, Rapson will talk about the making of this outsized work that is impossible to categorize. He'll discuss his collaborative process with local folk singer-songwriter Moore, and Gaglione, a recent immigrant from France who plays the  North African mandole. 

This Obermann Conversation is co-sponsored by the Iowa City Public Library.

Watch the ICPL's video of this conversation:

Thursday, April 20, 2017 - 7:30pm
Voxman Music Building
Concert Hall
93 E. Burlington St.
Iowa City, IA 52240

A genre-bending tale with lilting Western ballads, gentle Mexican waltzes, folk songs and melodies from the East, evocative tone poems, and raucous ragtime melded together by jazz. FREE AND OPEN TO ALL.

A story about LEAVING HOME,
of TRAVEL and wandering the WEST.
A story of FORTUNES won and lost,
A story of LOVE late in life
and a dastardly MURDER!

With cowboys and Indians, landowners and congressmen,
society ladies and prostitutes, school children and old folks,
Afghanis, Mexicans, Chinese, Czechs, and Poles,
and special appearances by the famous
Buffalo Bill Cody and Medicine Joe Crow.

You will laugh, you will cry,
you will fret, you will sigh.


Created and performed by:

  • John Rapson — piano
  • Special guest artist, Iowa City’s legendary singer/songwriter Dave Moore — voice, slide guitar, accordion, harmonica
  • And introducing singer/songwriter Daniel Gaglione (an immigrant from France, now living in Iowa City) — voice, North African mandole

With UI alumni:

  • Ryan Smith — alto and soprano saxophones, flute, clarinet
  • Tara Dutcher — violin
  • Dan Padley — guitars
  • Blake Shaw — doublebass
  • Justin LeDuc — drums, percussion

Cameo monologues written by Scott Bradley

Performed by UI Theatre Department faculty member Paul Kalina

Telegraph Operator: Steve Locher

Based on the article “American Chronicles: Citizen Khan” by Kathryn Schulz in the June 6/13, 2016 issue of The New Yorker and used with permission.


An Afghani child of 12 leaves his home near the Khyber Pass, wandering India for years before boarding a boat in Bombay and landing in Seattle. After exploring the American West, he settles in Sheridan, Wyoming, and takes over a business selling tamales. He works 80 hours a week, becomes famous for his food, and eventually learns how to invest in the U.S. stock market. As he gains and loses fortunes, he nonetheless lives frugally, choosing to spend his money in acts of kindness and generosity. He gains citizenship in 1925, has it revoked by U.S. xenophobic laws, and regains it again 30 years later. He becomes a legend, both back home in the borderland between Afghanistan and Pakistan and in Wyoming. He has an arranged marriage late in life and sires six children before abruptly and tragically being murdered in his 80s. His children and their offspring have recently founded a mosque in Gillette, Wyoming, that has drawn the ire of some eastern Wyoming residents and received national media attention.

This event is free and open to the public.

Sponsored by the UI School of Music and the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies