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 recorded 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 much-beloved bookstore 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 (former U.S. Poet Laureate), Joy Williams, Caroline Kennedy, Jim Harrison, Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk, Elizabeth Gilbert, Larry Brown, Willie Morris, Barry Hannah, 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, Neko Case, 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 “Super Chikan” Johnson, Mighty Gospel Warriors, Dent May and the late Col. Bruce Hampton. Some guests such as Radney Foster, Willy Vlautin, Kinky Friedman, Greg Iles and J.D. Wilkes 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 (1006 Van Buren Ave, Oxford, MS 38655).
In 2005, Thacker Mountain Radio received the Governor’s Award for Broadcast Excellence. In 2017, the show was awarded a “Citation of Merit” from the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters. The Thacker Mountain Radio Hour celebrated 20 years on the air in 2017.
Kate Teague has worked as producer/director of The Thacker Mountain Radio Hour since 2016 following a two-year internship. A professional vocalist and songwriter, her recent single, Low Life, was recognized on the respected music blogs, Gorilla vs Bear, Gold Flake Paint and The Line of Best Fit, as well as on the Spotify playlists, New Indie Mix and Undercurrents. An EP is forthcoming from Muscle Beach Records. Kate is a Mobile, AL native and a graduate of the University of Mississippi.
Jim Dees is the author of The Statue and the Fury, which won the 2017 Independent Publishers Association’s Bronze award for best non-fiction in the South. The book was also nominated for the “Best Nonfiction Book of the Year” by the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters. Dees has hosted The Thacker Mountain Radio Hour since Fall 2000.
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.
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.
Slade Lewis (bass) has been the backbone of many bands over the years, most recently with Oxford soul ensemble, Wiley and the Checkmates. Among his varied musical projects, Slade has scored the soundtrack to several films and documentaries.
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), Shannon McNally, blues great Charlie Musselwhite and most recently on tour with Amelia Eisenhauer (American Idol finalist).
Associate professor Ricky Burkhead has been on the Ole Miss faculty since 1994, teaching applied percussion, percussion ensembles, steel drum and salsa band. He formed the popular University of Mississippi Steel Drum Band in 1995. Burkhead has performed extensively in a wide variety of venues from blues clubs to jazz ensembles to symphony orchestras. He has presented steel drum clinics across the US South as well as in Jamaica, Argentina and Uruguay. Burkhead endorses Remo Inc., Zildjian Cymbals, Latin Percussion, Mapex/Majestic and Vic Firth Sticks.