Off Square Books transforms every Thursday night from a small bookstore into a living theater. Shelves are pushed back and chairs brought out before a stage from which the books are taken and replaced with keyboards, drums, microphones and other implements of live performance. Musicians and authors file in and make their way to the stage to prepare themselves for the night’s show. Thacker Mountain Radio Show is the cause of the commotion.
“Thacker Mountain Radio is a non-profit organization dedicated to celebrating and documenting the evolving sounds and stories of a diverse South through live performances, radio broadcasts and other multi-media platforms,” producer Kathryn McGraw said.
“The hour-long live show and radio broadcast is a huge way we accomplish our mission.”
Thacker is a blend of local and national level authors, feature bands and diversity rolled into a single radio show. Every week the bookstore hosts around 200 spectators as well as the performers.
“I feel like it is something really unique to Oxford,” senior journalism major Anna Frost said. “It shows the artistic side of town, which I love.”
Musicians playing anything from rock ‘n’ roll, folk, country and bluegrass to opera, jazz and salsa arrive each week to play their role in the unconventional musical styling of Oxford’s greatest radio show. With the musicians arrive a platoon of authors from every level of success coming in to read snippets of their work not only to the awaiting crowd, but also to Rebel Radio and its avid listeners.
“Each act that appears on our show, be it an author or band, brings their own identity and vibe,” host Jim Dees said. “We mix it up and the authors and musicians help us with that by bringing their individual art to the stage.”
Having hosted the show since 2000, Dees knows his way around the familiar setting. His vocal talent, however, is not his only contribution to the Oxford community. He has also published a compilation of his once-weekly column, “Lies and Other Truths.” He is now a freelance writer when off of the stage and has recently published an article in the April issue of Garden and Gun.
The Yalobushwackers are the house band for Thacker Mountain Radio Show and perform live each week. The members each have very different backgrounds; some hail from New Orleans and others have lived in or around Oxford their entire lives. Somehow the various band members come together to form the perfect concoction for Oxford-style entertainment. Each week they play two or three numbers ranging between blues, folk, rock and country.
The band suffered a great loss last October when lead guitarist Jerry “Duff” Dorrough passed away.
“Thacker Mountain Radio lost not only our brother and bandleader, but a large chunk of wit and soul of the show,” Dees said.
Though the band certainly lost a great deal last year they haven’t missed a figurative beat in their performances.
Tonight’s feature band, Caribbean Paradise, allows the listeners to relax to island-style jazz followed by the self-proclaimed “purveyors of joyfunk,” CBDB. After the show CBDB will preform at Proud Larry’s.
Bob Shacochis will be reading from his mystery, “The Woman Who Lost Her Soul.” The novel travels from WWII Croatia to 1980s Istanbul and Haiti in the 1990s as it leads up to the war on terror. Schacochis won a National Book Award in 1985 and describes this week’s feature as a 50-year prologue to 9/11.
The show has grown since its founding in 1998 by Caroline Herring and Bryan Ledford, two Southern studies graduate students who loved the idea of music and books together in an old-time, radio-style show.
The colorful staff makes the experience at Thacker Mountain a welcoming and exciting one.
“I was attracted to Thacker Mountain Radio because it is a great example of how the community of Oxford works,” producer Kathryn McGraw said.
“Each week dedicated volunteers and amazing board members work together to make sure everyone in the community feels welcome. It’s magic, and it’s one of the things I love most about Thacker.”
The show can be heard on Rebel Radio 92.1 FM or on www.myrebelradio.com at 6 p.m. tonight. It will be rebroadcast this Saturday at 7 p.m.