The Thacker Mountain Radio Hour, like people and businesses everywhere, has been forced into changes to adapt to the Covid pandemic. The Oxford-based music and literature show features performances by musicians and authors in front of a live audience and all that came to an abrupt halt in March 2020.
“We had a packed house at Off Square Books one week and the next week was shelter-in-place lockdown,” recalls Thacker host Jim Dees.
The show finished its 2020 spring season by recording shows at Taproot Audio Design, the home studio of the show’s production engineer, Jeffrey Reed. Musical guests sent in pre-recorded home performances and Dees interviewed authors over the phone.
Lucrative roadshows scheduled for the summer of 2020 were scrapped, winter 2021 shows were recorded in the studio (dubbed the “Thacker Shack”) followed by another round of cancelled summer road shows.
Now, as the show begins its 24th year on the air, the audience and performers are back.The show has temporarily moved its location to the Old Armory Pavilion, on the corner of Bramlett Blvd. and University Avenue. The venue is spacious and open air and allows for spaced seating by the audience who bring their own lawn chairs and picnics. Masks are worn as needed. Admission is free.
“It truly is a community event,” Dees marvels. “We’ve had the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council assist with the Pavilion; the Oxford Park Commission with our stage; Square Books with books and authors; Party Waitin’ To Happen and Cat Head Distillery are offering a signature cocktail and Rebel Radio comes down and sets up and puts us on the air. (92.1 FM and online: myrebelradio.com.
“Our house band, the Yalobushwhackers, the best live radio band in the land, stayed sharp and rehearsed virtually – not easy to do.
“And best of all,” Dees concludes, “our audience is back, bigger and better than ever.”
The show’s fall season – and its new picnic atmosphere – continues this Thursday, Sept. 23 at 6:30 pm at the Armory Pavilion with two Alabama songwriters Victoria Jones and Anna Grace Beatty. This week’s author will be none other than Oxford’s own Chef John Currence and his new, and very timely tome, Tailgreat: How to Crush It at Tailgating. Copies will be available at the show.
Another exciting change Dees points to is the rehiring of former Thacker producer Kathryn McGaw York of Water Valley. York was producer of the show from 2012-2017 before departing to work for Teach For America where she rose to Chief of Staff for TFA Delta.
Dees says her return puts the show in experienced hands while rebounding from the pandemic.
“Kathryn has the perfect energy to lead the show back to our pre-Covid level. Our crew is excited to have her on board as we gear up for our 25th anniversary next year.”
The show’s 25th anniversary show is tentatively set for Thursday, Oct. 13, 2022.
Meanwhile, Dees says the Thacker crew is energized and grateful.
“Like everybody, we’re taking it day to day,” Dees declares, “but we’re so grateful to our audience and event partners. Now that the weather has turned, we invite everybody to come check out the best free event in town.
“It’s so cool to look forward to Thursdays again.”