Thacker Mountain Radio celebrates 20 years of music, literature and Southern culture

Published 5:46 am Sunday, October 22, 2017

For the past 20 years, the Thacker Mountain Radio Hour has been a staple of Oxford’s cultural heritage.

The quintessentially Southern program, which airs each Thursday, has brought in a wide range of devoted listeners for the latest in music and literature in the region. This past week, the show celebrated its rich history at The Lyric.

Host Jim Dees has been with Thacker Mountain since 2000. He came on board after the original host, Peter Slade, moved to Virginia. Lyn Roberts, the manager of Square Books, was Dees’ neighbor and she asked if he wanted to be Slade’s replacement.

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“I had zero experience but I was friends with the band and crew and thought it’d be fun so I gave it a shot,” Dees said. “Still there, 17 years later.”

During the 20th anniversary show on Thursday, Dees brought his signature quick wit and genial personality as he hosted a 90-minute long special. Longtime house band the Yalobushwhackers took the stage first to open the program. Guests on the show included country singer Bonnie Bishop, guitarist Kenny Brown and author Finn Murphy. Musician Jimbo Mathus closed out the evening with members of his band Mosquitoville and led all the performers in covers of Tom Petty’s “Southern Accents” and the classic hymn “Will The Circle Be Unbroken?”.

During its earlier years, Dees says the show was “a day-to-day operation.”

“Richard Howorth and Square Books kept it afloat,” Dees added. “We became a non-profit several years ago and established a Board of Directors and the Board has really kept us going. We do six or seven out-of-town shows every year and that money goes a long way into feeding our budget.”

The Thacker host calls meeting authors and visiting musicians each week “a special treat.”

“I think for the community of Oxford, the show reinforces what we, in Oxford, already know: Oxford is a town that appreciates, and supports, creativity and even a little craziness,” Dees said. “Were it not for the community of Oxford, coming to the show, and the people of Mississippi, listening every week, there’d be no show. It really is a community effort.”

“Twenty years has not been long enough for Thacker Mountain Radio to be broadcasting out on the airwaves,” Mathus said before ending his set Thursday. “And it’s really transforming the way Mississippi thinks about Oxford and the way Mississippi thinks about our state. It’s been a huge, huge part of our culture. I know we here on stage appreciate it and I know you guys out there appreciate it, too.”