If you happen to visit Oxford, Mississippi, home to Ole Miss, on a Thursday evening during the school year, you’ll find lots to see on the teeming courthouse square. But it’s something you’ll hear that might catch your attention even more. This Thursday, Thacker Mountain Radio Hour, a nonprofit radio show featuring an eclectic mix of literary and musical guests, kicks off its nineteenth season of broadcasting live—and with free admission—from the heart of the idyllic north Mississippi town.
As befits Oxford’s literary legacy, the show, named for the highest point in Lafayette County, was known simply as “Words and Music” when it began in 1997, broadcasting from a bar called Blind Jim’s. Later that year, the show switched venues, taking up residence in Off Square Books, sister shop to former Oxford mayor Richard Howorth’s famed independent bookstore, Square Books. The show’s format—a reading from authors and tunes from visiting musicians, hosted by writer and man-about-Oxford, Jim Dees—remains the same, and over the years such artists as Marty Stuart, Elvis Costello, Natasha Tretheway, and Jesmyn Ward have made appearances.
To accommodate a more sizable crowd, tonight’s premiere is in the historic Lyric Theatre, just down Van Buren Avenue from Off Square. It will be a celebration of Trials of the Earth, the recently unearthed memoir of Mississippi Delta pioneer, Mary Hamilton, and feature readings from her descendants, Kristi Pantin Smith and Sheilah Hamilton Pantin. Musical guests include Jamison Hollister, a multi-instrumentalist based in Los Angeles; The Patrick Smith band, a Mississippi rock group; and bluegrass band New York City Slickers. Gospel trio the Como Mamas are coming up on September 8, when Thacker Mountain returns to its off-square home, and on September 15, Oxford chef John Currence will read from his new cookbook, Big Bad Breakfast.
You can listen online here. Or, better yet, stop by and experience in in person.