Probably–well, not probably, most definitely–the most fun part of producing a documentary on 30 years of Mountain Stage is getting to cull through the archives of 2,000 hours of live performance radio. It’s daunting, humbling, and exciting all in one. There’s music recorded on virtually every format: reel to reel, DAT, miniDisc–you name it–they’ve got it on that medium.
Some of the archive more accessible than other parts, and sometimes it is necessary digitize the tapes in real time (meaning a 2-hour show takes 2 hours to “dub”). But, never fear, the Mountain Stage crew is planning to digitize their entire archive and will soon make every bit of it available to the public. If you’re interested and have the means, you can help them out with this endeavor.
Until then, I (and the folks that work on the show) wanted to offer you a taste with a series of posts that contains the music from ‘Mountain Stage at 30: A Radio Retrospective’.
So, without any further adieu, here’s part one in a series to be rolled out over the holidays–enjoy!
Larry Groce – “Junk Food Junkie”
Long before Mountain Stage began, Texas native Larry Groce landed in central West Virginia as a musician-in-residence with the National Endowment for the Arts. In 1976, “Junk Food Junkie” shot up on the charts, reaching #9 on the Billboard Top 100. Groce toured the country in support of the single and landed on national radio and television programs, including The Dick Clark Show, The Rich Little Show, and The Merv Griffin Show.
Bob Thompson – “Take the ‘A’ Train”
Also before Mountain Stage came into being, Andy Ridenour of West Virginia Public Radio produced live music events around Charleston. One of the first acts was local jazz pianist Bob Thompson. While this version of “Take the ‘A’ Train” was recorded live on Mountain Stage in 2004, I felt it was a safe enough bet that Thompson has been performing it for years. And plus, everyone loves some Bob Thompson.
Larry Groce – “West Virginia Hills”
With hopes of putting on a regularly scheduled program, Mountain Stage creators Larry Groce, Andy Ridenour, and Francis Fisher put together a one-off pilot show in March 1981. Athough they lacked a proper theme song on the pilot episode, Ridenour and Groce introduced the show with the chorus of state’s official song, “West Virginia Hills”.
Larry Groce & Company – “Mountain Stage Theme”
Although today’s audiences of Mountain Stage recognize the show’s current theme as “Simple Song”, the earliest days of the show featured a theme song that was much different. Here’s the first version of the Mountain Stage Theme from the December 1983 broadcast, the first one the show produced that kicked off the show’s official beginning.
Editor’s Note: Mountain Stage at 30: Songs From the Doc is a multi-part series that serves as a companion to a recent documentary that details the history of the show. Stay tuned to wvpublic.org as the series is rolled out over the Christmas and New Year holidays.