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Country Music Singer, Rock Performer, Hometown Novelist Combine to Make Father’s Day Weekend Memorable

Rock and soul singer Nikki Hill, country music artist Tyler Tisdale, right, and author Michael Farris Smith will take the stage at MC's Entergy Theater on Saturday, June 15, to perform during the Thacker Mountain Radio Hour.
Rock and soul singer Nikki Hill, country music artist Tyler Tisdale, right, and author Michael Farris Smith will take the stage at MC's Entergy Theater on Saturday, June 15, to perform during the Thacker Mountain Radio Hour.

One of the most dynamic musical variety shows broadcast on Mississippi Public Radio returned to Mississippi College for the third consecutive year.

Rock and soul singer Nikki Hill, country music artist Tyler Tisdale, and author Michael Farris Smith, whose parents Gayle and Farris are Clinton residents, appeared in front of a live audience on the award-winning Thacker Mountain Radio Hour June 15 in the Entergy Theater at the Gore Arts Complex.

Hosted by Jim Dees with accompaniment by house band the Yalobushwhackers, the weekly show features an author reading sandwiched between a wide array of musical guests. Thacker is broadcast by public radio stations throughout Alabama, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Tennessee.

According to Ricky Nations, a local insurance agent who worked with MC President Blake Thompson to bring the Thacker Mountain Radio Hour back to Mississippi College, it was the seventh year that the Arts Council of Clinton hosted the show.

“The Gore Arts Complex offers such a great venue and is perfect in size for Thacker,” Nations said of the auditorium that boasts comfortable seating and superior acoustics. “The 2023 Thacker in Clinton was the first time that the stage was used for a performance after the building had been remodeled. It went very well.

“We draw music lovers from Hinds, Madison, Rankin, and Warren Counties, so it is a good opportunity for the City of Clinton and Mississippi College to showcase what we have to offer.”

Tisdale, a country music singer and storyteller from Hattiesburg, incorporates poignant tales into music. He has been described as “a master of Americana music, weaving the soul of the heartland into every note. His lyrics paint a vivid canvas of American stories.”

A featured artist at the Mighty Roots Festival and the Homegrown Revival and Mockingbird Festival, Tisdale spent the last several years fronting Midnight Revel, a five-piece power jam band. He had returned to his roots with an acoustic guitar.

He has been featured on the Country Music Television (CMT) Network and his latest song, “She’s the One,” produced by Steve Azar, debuted in the Top 10 on iTunes and racked up more than 3 million Spotify streams. His fourth single, “High,” debuted at No. 8 on iTunes Americana Best New Songs and his fifth single, “If It’s All the Same to You,” has had more than 440,000 streams.

While living along the Mississippi River in St. Louis, New Orleans, and Memphis, Hill developed her ear for garage rock, rock and roll, rhythm and blues, and roots music. The Durham, North Carolina resident’s distinctive vocals and energetic stage performances have made her a fan favorite.

After self-releasing and producing her debut album, “Here’s Nikki Hill,” her song, “Struttin’” was released on Deke Dickerson and The Bo-Keys EP, “Soul Meets Country.” She followed up her second album, “Heavy Hearts Hard Fists,” with a worldwide tour of the U.S., Europe, Australia, India, and Morocco. She received praise for her uplifting new songs and performances at more than 30 festivals, including the Montreux Jazz Festival, the Monterey Jazz Festival, and the Byron Bay Blues Fesival.

Smith, 2008 winner of the Arts Council of Clinton’s Brick Street Short Story Contest, returns to Thacker after having read from his works during the 2018 show in Clinton. The Oxford resident has produced novels that have been included on “Best of the Year” lists by respected media outlets Esquire, National Public Radio, Southern Living, Garden & Gun, and Book Riot, and have been named “Best of the Month” selections by Indie Next, Barnes and Noble Discover, and Amazon.

He has also written the feature-film adaptations of his novels “Desperation Road” and “The Fighter, titled for the screen as “Rumble Through the Dark.”

Nations said the three performers made this year’s show truly exceptional.

“Michael Farris Smith’s parents live in Clinton and it is always good to get home on Father’s Day weekend,” he said. “Tyler Tisdale is an outstanding Americana/Country-style musician. Nikki Hill will bring the energy. She is a rock and soul artist and a great performer."

Thacker Mountain Radio Hour broadcasts 12 times in the spring, 12 times in the fall, and about a half-dozen times from various cities across the Southeast. It received the Mississippi Governor’s Award for Broadcast Excellence in 2005 and a Citation of Merit from the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters in 2017.

Founded by former musicians Caroline Herring and Bryan Ledford and Richard Howorth, owner of Square Books, the show originates from Oxford, where it caught the ear of MC President Blake Thompson when he was a student at the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy.

“We always appreciate Dr. Blake Thompson’s support with Thacker,” Nations said. “He and his wife attended Thacker while they were students at Ole Miss.”

The production is not only an entertaining show, but it is also the Arts Council of Clinton’s primary fund-raising event. The ACC uses proceeds from the Thacker Mountain Radio Hour to fund four $1,000 scholarships for graduating high school students who plan to continue their study of the arts. The scholarships memorialize two ACC founders: Wayne Richey and Gloria Dunning.