April 25, 2023

Thacker Mountain Radio Hour Celebrates 25th Anniversary

Therese Apel

Jim Dees (left) with The Yalobushwhackers Photo by Jennifer Lauriello

Oxford, Mississippi – For twenty-three of Thacker Mountain Radio Hour’s twenty-five years, host Jim Dees has donned his Hawaiian shirt on Thursday nights in Oxford, and with effortless humor and wit put the “C” in “cool,” introducing musicians and interviewing acclaimed authors. He has served as the face of one of Mississippi’s finest products – a public radio show that celebrates literature and music. The show won a Governor’s Award for Broadcast Excellence in 2005 and a Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letter’s Citation of Merit in 2017.

On October 15, 1997 musicians Caroline Herring and Bryan Ledford, teamed up with Richard Howorth, owner of Oxford’s Square Books, to create a radio show to deliver the powerful experience of live words and music. Named for the highest elevation in Oxford and implying a worthy challenge, the show has moved around Oxford from Square Books and recently found a new homebase at the Powerhouse Arts Center.

A show typically features one author/poet and three musical acts, one of which is The Yalobushwhackers. This house band, the backbone of the show, elicits more than just toe-tapping and applause. Theirs is a North MS-style rhythm and blues the band applies to everything from soul to gospel to rock and even reggae.

The Yalobushwhackers include Paul Tate on guitar and vocals, Slade Lewis on bass, Ricky Burkhead on drums, and Mark Yacovone and Keon Love on piano.

“For the audience, they are a party ‘happening,'” Thacker board president Julie Howell Addison recently said. “When they perform with the guest acts or even interact backstage, they’re always promoting up-and-coming young talent. I love that about Thacker Mountain. The show is like an ambassador for Mississippi.”

Notable writers who have appeared over the past 25 years include, John Grisham, Charles Frazier, Natasha Trethewey, Orhan Pamuk, Caroline Kennedy, Donna Tartt, Willie Morris, Roy Blount, Jr., and former Saturday Night Live (and Mississippi native) screenwriter David Sheffield.

Musicians have run the gamut from Elvis Costello and Amy Ray of Indigo Girls to Chapel Hart, and the North Mississippi All Stars, to Dent May to James “Super Chikan” Johnson.

Mississippi Public Broadcasting began broadcasting the show in 2001, and Thacker Mountain Radio Hour is now serving up music and literature via three public radio stations in Tennessee (WYXR Memphis, WUTC Chattanooga, WUOT Knoxville); Alabama Public Radio as well as Mississippi Public Broadcasting, and new addition, KNCE of Taos, New Mexico.

Listening over the airwaves will connect you, but catching a live show is a transformative entertainment experience.

The show hits the road this summer 2023 including shows in Clinton, MS, in June, the Neshoba County Fair in July, and the Mississippi Book Festival in August in Jackson, as well as Ocean Springs, also in August. While some shows are ticketed events, all home shows in Oxford are free admission.

But of course, nothing is free. The show is listener-supported ($50 for a year) and donor information is available at the show’s website, www.thackermountain.com.

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