Roots and truths!

Author Tom Piazza, gospel groovers the Staples Jr. Singers plus fifemaster Sharde Thomas!

On air and online: Thursday, June 6 – Sunday, June 9 

Author: Tom Piazza – The Auburn Conference  ( “…intriguing mix of humor and underlying seriousness makes this an engaging change of pace…”) – Kirkus Reviews 

Music: Gospel groovers The Staples Jr. Singers plus fife and drummer Sharde Thomas

Hosts: Jim Dees and our house band, the Yalobushwhacker Big Band with the Thacker Horns and vocalist Mary Frances Massey

(From 4-27-23)

Air times:

Thursday, June 6 – 6 pm  (CT) WUMS 92.1 FM University of Mississippi

Friday, June 7 – 6 am WYXR 91.7 FM Memphis, TN.

Saturday, June 8 –3 pm (ET) WUTC 88.1 FM University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

7pm (CT) Mississippi Public Broadcasting

9pm (CT) Alabama Public Radio

Sunday, June 9 – 3 pm (ET) WUOT | 91.9 FM, Knoxville

2 pm (MT) KNCE 93.5 | Taos, New Mexico

Archived here: Spotify, SoundCloudGoogle PodcastiHeart Radio




Tom Piazza

It is 1883, and America is at a crossroads. At a tiny college in Upstate New York, an idealistic young professor has managed to convince Mark Twain, Frederick Douglass, Herman Melville, Walt Whitman, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Confederate memoirist Forrest Taylor, and romance novelist Lucy Comstock to participate in the first (and last) Auburn Writers’ Conference for a public discussion about the future of the nation.

By turns brilliantly comic and startlingly prescient, The Auburn Conference (University of Iowa Press) by Tom Piazza, vibrates with questions as alive and urgent today as they were in 1883—the chronic American conundrums of race, class, and gender, and the fate of the democratic ideal.

Tom Piazza’s twelve books include the novels A Free State and City of Refuge, the story collection Blues and Trouble, and his nonfiction work Why New Orleans Matters. He was a principal writer for the HBO series Treme, and lives in New Orleans.


The Staples Jr. Singers

The Staples Jr. Singers were part of a vanguard of soul gospel artists in the 1970s that broke from tradition to testify with the groove, writing songs that were stone cold soul.

Like many gospel acts of the time, they were a family band: Annie, A.R.C., and Edward Brown from Aberdeen, Mississippi. They were just teenagers, Annie was only 14, A.R.C was 15, and Edward was 16 when they recorded an album, When Do We Get Paid.

Forty years later, the album has now been reissued by international record label, Luaka Bop (founded by Talking Heads front man, David Byrne) and The Staples Jr. Singers have become a global sensation, touring venues around the world.

The group’s latest release is the three song EP, Tell Heaven.

The group also appears on Luaka Bop’s critically acclaimed compilation World Spirituality Classics 2: The Time for Peace Is Now – Gospel Music About Us (2019), which features the Staples Jr. single “We’ve Got a Race to Run.”

Thacker blog post: Thacker Mountain Radio Hour

Sharde Thomas

Sharde Thomas is the granddaughter of the late Othar Turner, a leading practitioner of the North Mississippi fife and drum tradition. Her most recent – and highly successful collaboration – was with the Voices Of Mississippi tour that included Luther and Cody Dickinson, Cedric Burnside, Bobby Rush, Ruthie Foster and Bill Ferris.

She also toured Africa this past February, particularly Senegal.

Sharde has developed a new show that explains and celebrates her music: The Evolution of Fife and Drum Music, with Thomas on fife and vocals and Chris Mallory on bass drum.

NOTE: The 73rd Annual GOAT Picnic is August 25th and 26th at Coldwater Shrine Club in Coldwater, MS. Info at

The New York Times has called Thomas and her band, the Rising Stars Fife and Drum Band, “the last living link to fife and drum music.”