The Thacker Mountain Radio Hour is a weekly live radio show featuring author readings and a wide array of musical performances from the square in Oxford, Mississippi. The show is taped and broadcast every Thursday at 6:00 p.m. during the fall and spring and rebroadcast every Saturday at 7 pm on Mississippi Public Broadcasting. Admission is free.
The show was founded by former Oxford musicians Caroline Herring and Bryan Ledford, and Richard Howorth, owner of Square Books, a bookstore located on the Oxford town square. The show was named by Howorth after a fire observation tower atop Lafayette County’s Thacker Mountain, five miles south of Oxford. The tower somewhat resembles a radio tower and Howorth felt the approximately 700-foot elevation of this “mountain” was appropriately modest for the show’s beginning aspirations.
The first Thacker Mountain Radio show was broadcast from Off Square Books, a remainder and used books ancillary store of Square Books, on October 15, 1997. Guests on that first show were author John Bentley Mays and musician Tony Furtado.
Those early shows featured an author reading and music by a visiting band as well as songs by the house band, a format that continues today.
Through the years The Thacker Mountain Radio Hour has hosted a variety of literary and musical artists. Some of the most recognized authors are: Nathasha Tretheway, Joy Williams, Caroline Kennedy, Jim Harrison, Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk, Larry Brown, Willie Morris, Barry Hannah, Elizabeth Gilbert, Jesmyn Ward, Tom Franklin, Beth Ann Fennelly, Chris Offutt, Ace Atkins, Lee Smith, George Plimpton, Brad Watson, Bobbie Ann Mason, Roy Blount Jr., Andre Dubus III, Billy Collins, George Saunders, Frances Mayes and Erik Larson.
Musicians who have performed on the show have included: Marty Stuart, Del McCoury, Olu Dara, Elvis Costello, Bobby Rush, Dorothy Moore, T-Model Ford, Blue Mountain, North Mississippi All Stars, Charlie Musselwhite, Kenny Brown, Jimbo Mathus, Jon Langford of the Mekons, Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls, Drive By Truckers, Robert “Bilbo” Walker, Jojo Hermann, Grammy/Oscar winner, Paul Williams, James “Superchikan” Johnson, Mighty Gospel Warriors, Dent May and Col. Bruce Hampton. Some guests such as Willy Vlautin, Kinky Friedman and Greg Iles, have done double duty as authors and musicians.
The show now broadcasts some 30 shows a year, 12 in the spring and 12 in the fall as well as 5-6 on the road in various cities across the state.
Its Oxford home is now Off Square Books at 129 Courthouse Square, with occasional shows at the nearby Lyric Theatre.
In 2005, Thacker Mountain Radio received the Governor’s Award for Broadcast Excellence. In 2017, the show was awarded a “Certificate of Merit” from the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters. The Thacker Mountain Radio Hour celebrated 20 years on the air in 2017.
Director/Producer: Kate Teague
Kate Teague, a 2015 Ole Miss graduate and Mobile, Ala. native, has interned on the Thacker production crew for the past two years. She has won music scholarships in her hometown and has had several music business internships in Nashville including with Vector Management, Rounder Records, and with musician Will Kimbrough. In Oxford she has performed as the songwriter/guitarist for the band, Reels.
Host: Jim Dees
Jim Dees has been the host of the The Thacker Mountain Radio Hour since the fall of 2000. His latest book is The Statue and the Fury – A Year of Art, Race, Music and Cocktails (Nautilus Press). He is also the author of Lies and Other Truths, a collection of his newspaper columns and the editor of They Write Among Us, an anthology of Oxford writers. His writing has appeared in numerous publications including Garden and Gun, Paste, Spin and GQ.com.
Sound Engineer: Jeffrey Reed
In a creative field that demands excellence and innovative thinking, Taproot Audio Design owner, Jeffrey Reed combines experience and intuitive talents to make him a reliable and multi-faceted audio engineer. He has established himself in the mid south and has amassed a discography that includes credits ranging from the rootsy sounds of The Creek Dippers and Blue Mountain, the Cajun stomp of C.J. Chenier, to the traditional southern gospel sound of the Mississippi Mass Choir. Reed joined Thacker Mountain Radio Hour in 2012 and brings more than 20 years of experience of live and recording production. Pictured here with engineering assistant, Devin Rossetti.
Paul Tate is a 30-year veteran of the North Mississippi music scene as a multi-instrumentalist, singer, composer, and arranger. A New Albany native, he studied Music Theory and Composition at the University of Mississippi and the University of Memphis. Tate joined the Thacker Mountain Radio Hour house band in July 2016.
Drummer: Wallace Lester
Wallace Lester had been a mainstay of the New Orleans music community until Hurricane Katrina forced his relocation to North Mississippi. In addition to his Thacker duties, Lester is an in-demand drummer for such artists as Kenny Brown and the Rev. John Wilkins. Lester also drums for the band, Teardrop City. Their latest release is Do It For Johnny.
Multi-instrumentalist: Slade Lewis
Slade Lewis (bass) has been the backbone of many bands over the years, most recently with Oxford soul ensemble, Wiley and the Checkmates. Slade has also provided the soundtracks to documentary films.
Pianist: Mark Yacovone
Mark Yacovone, originally from Providence, Rhode Island, now makes his home in Oxford, Mississippi. Mark is probably least known for his brief television appearance in the reality series “Gene Simmons: Family Jewels”. Mark’s piano, Hammond B-3, and accordion “sideman” contributions span several decades and multiple genres and he has had the pleasure of sharing the stage and/or the studio with musical greats such as Mojo Nixon, Jody Williams (Howlin’ Wolf, Bo Diddley), Buddy Cage (New Riders of the Purple Sage), Maria Muldaur, Jeff Daniels, Kenny Brown, Bill Payne (Little Feat), and most recently, on tour with Shannon McNally.
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