By Jim Dees
The Thacker Mountain Radio Hour returns to Oxford Thursday, Sept. 1 at 6 pm at the Lyric Theatre. Admission is free and the public is invited.
We’ve planned something truly special for this season premiere: a musical interpretation of “Trials of the Earth,” the dramatic, epic memoir based on diaries kept by Mississippi Delta pioneer, Mary Mann Hamilton (1866 – 1936). Former Oxford resident Jamison Hollister, late of Lisa Marie Presley’s band and TV’s The Voice, will serve as musical director.
Trials of the Earth is being re-issued nationally by Little, Brown. It details the incredibly harsh conditions of Hamilton’s life in the early 20th century. She lived in crude shacks and tents in lumber camps near Parchman, then Gunnison, cooking for the crews working to clear the primeval Delta forests. She fought floods and tornadoes, panthers and bears, mosquitoes, snakes and searing heat. She nursed the sick and buried the dead – including some of her own children. All the while she maintained a quiet strength that radiates onto the pages of her remarkable book.
For the Lyric show, Hamilton’s great-grandson, Kerry Hamilton, has assembled actors and musicians to interpret his great-grandmother’s life and times. The music will include originals as well as classic river songs by Hollister, the Patrick Smith Band and the New York City Slickers. Our own Yalobushwhackers will serve as house band for the evening featuring our new guitarist, Paul Tate.
Readings from the book will include Mississippi actress McGhee Monteith who recently won the Memphis Film Prize at this month’s Memphis Film and Music Fest. Monteith won for her 13-minute short, “He Could’ve Gone Pro,” which she wrote and directed. Other readers include Hamilton’s great-great granddaughter and great-granddaughter.
“The show will be in three acts,” Kerry Hamilton explains, “fire, water and earth, which represent the arc of her life.”
I’m deeply proud the Hamilton family and their stunning story will kick off the 2016 Fall Thacker season. Our show likes to celebrate the unsung and Mary Hamilton is a legit heroine. Much has been written about the pioneer days but it’s usually a story of men written by males.
Mary Mann Hamilton was a Mississippi force of nature; a courageous, mind-blowingly strong woman who should be more widely appreciated in Mississippi history as an example of the indispensable role such women played in settling this crazy state.
We’re gonna do it Thursday night at the Lyric. This one’s for Mary.
Free Admission. Doors: 5:30 – Drink service available.
Radio: 92.1 FM (Oxford)
Rebroadcast on Miss. Public Broadcasting on Saturday, Sept. 8 at 7 pm