Gore Arts Complex to Host Award-Winning Radio Show Dedicated to Southern Music, Stories, Charm
One of Mississippi College’s most heralded artists will join a pair of talented musical performers from Hinds County as they headline a popular radio program’s return to the Clinton campus.
Wyatt Waters, renowned watercolorist and MC graduate; Ally Durr, a singer, songwriter, and musician from Jackson; and Walker Wilson, a country music singer from Raymond, are scheduled to appear in front of a live audience on the award-winning Thacker Mountain Radio Hour at 6 p.m. on Saturday, June 17.
Hosted by Jim Dees with accompaniment by house band the Yalobushwhackers, the weekly show features author readings and a wide array of musical guests. Broadcast by radio stations throughout Alabama, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Tennessee, the show at Mississippi College will represent the first performance staged in the auditorium of the Gore Arts Complex, the newly renovated home of the University’s art programs on MC’s East Campus.
Ricky Nations, a local insurance agent who worked with MC President Blake Thompson and the Arts Council of Clinton to bring the show back to Mississippi College, said the setting couldn’t be more appropriate.
“Wyatt credited Sam Gore for telling him he had the talent to make a living as an artist,” said Nations, an MC graduate himself. “It’s only fitting that he will be featured in the program broadcast from the Gore Arts Complex.”
Thacker Mountain Radio Hour has aired from Clinton five times – the first four from Clinton High School. Last year, MC hosted its first production of the show.
Music fans lined the walls of the Alumni Hall gymnasium to hear Beth McKee, an Orlando, Florida-area singer, songwriter, and former member of the band Evangeline; Curtis Wilke, a Mississippi author who wrote a novel about MC alum Tom Landrum’s efforts on behalf of the FBI to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan; and the Shotgun Jazz Band, a seven-piece blues ensemble from New Orleans.
Nations said the Gore Arts Complex auditorium, with its comfortable seating and superior acoustics, will provide an even nicer venue for the show this year.
“The new auditorium has a raised stage, so everyone will be able to see well,” he said. “Clinton has always provided the largest audience for the show, and at roughly 300 seats, it’s the right size for the Thacker Mountain program.”
Founded by musicians Caroline Herring and Bryan Ledford and Square Books owner Richard Howorth, the show originates from Oxford. Thacker Mountain Radio Hour passed a milestone on Oct. 20, 2022, celebrating 25 years on the air.
The show broadcasts 12 times in the spring, 12 times in the fall, and about half-a-dozen times from various cities across the Southeast. When Thompson, who became acquainted with Thacker Mountain Radio Hour while studying at the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy, discovered the producers were interested in reviving the show’s annual “road trip” to Clinton, he thought MC would provide the perfect setting for the broadcast.
Bob Blanton, president of the Arts Council of Clinton, said the Gore Arts Complex was always top of mind in discussions about bringing Thacker Mountain Radio Hour to MC.
“When we started talking to President Thompson last year about hosting the program, we discussed eventually having it at the Gore Arts Complex auditorium,” Banton said. “Being the inaugural performance in the renovated auditorium and knowing the program will be broadcast on the radio statewide and in three other states is exciting.”
Nations said the show could be an exceptional recruiting opportunity for the Christian University. Thousands of listeners who have never set foot in Clinton will learn about Mississippi College from the broadcast.
“The show has a nice, widespread appeal,” he said. “Stations in larger cities like Knoxville, Chattanooga, Memphis, and Nashville carry Thacker Mountain. A lot of people will hear Jim Dees talk about what a wonderful, clean place Clinton is and what a beautiful campus Mississippi College has.
“Many of the people who come for the show will get to see the Gore Arts Complex for the first time. It’s nice and new – a tremendous setting for community events – and I don’t know if there’s another place like it in the state.”
The production is not only an entertaining musical variety show, but it is also the Arts Council of Clinton’s primary fund-raising event. According to Blanton, the ACA 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 ACA founders, Wayne Richey and Gloria Dunning.
“Strong support from Mississippi College and the city of Clinton keeps Thacker Mountain Radio Hour coming back each year,” Blanton said. “The Arts Council of Clinton’s prime reason for putting on this program is to maintain the strong ties between the city and the University.”
During the program, Waters will discuss his most recent book, “The Watercolor Road: Painting and Writing Through America’s South,” authored during an extended painting tour of the Southeastern U.S. In 2020, he and his wife, Kristi, took a road trip in a Ford Expedition, pulling a 16-foot Casita travel trailer named Lucy to paint famous landmarks and lesser-known gems of the region, from plateaus and bayous to mountains and marshes.
In the book, a collection of 133 paintings, 21 essays, and other insights, Waters shares what he has learned throughout his storied career and how he applies those life lessons to his art. It is the latest in a series of creative travel and art projects by Waters, who has written nine books, starred in a television show, received multiple awards, and produced more than 7,500 paintings.
Waters’ appearance will be sandwiched by the musical performance, Durr.
Blanton said Durr’s performances have been shaped by her background in gospel music.
“She writes her own songs,” he said. “She relies on listening to her surroundings and what lies in her heart. She’s ready to ‘bless the world’ with her authenticity, incredible talent, and undeniable musical gift.”
Durr released her first single, “What You Livin’ For,” on Oct. 11, 2020, to wide acclaim, and has enjoyed similar success with other releases, including “Who I Am” and “Halcyon and Starlyte – Escape with ME (featuring Charlotte Haining). Her sound has been described as having a gospel, neo-soul style with a jazz influence.
Earlier this year, Wilson’s vocals drew comparisons to Waylon Jennings during a performance on NBC’s “The Voice.” The Nashville-based southern country rock artist was a member of “Team Blake Shelton” until he was eliminated during the “Knockouts Premiere.” His most recent releases include “Wanna Want You,” “Dear Raymond,” and “Little Less Here.”
Tickets to the show at the Gore Arts Complex cost $20 each and are available here. Those unable to attend the performance may hear the broadcast live on Mississippi Public Broadcasting.