Jamie Hoover Keeps Tradition Alive with “Sounds from the Mother Road”
We’re back to radio this week, after a brief diversion into the wider world of the music business.
I first met Jamie Hoover at the Strawberry Music Festival sometime in the 1990s. The fact that her show is syndicated on so many stations is a testiment to the popularity of “old school” country.
Bill Frater: Where and when did you start in radio? What other stations have you worked at and what were they like?
Jamie Hoover: I started at KCSS in Turlock, California, in 1989, as a member of the Sunday format known as FAT Sunday, modeled after the legendary KFAT radio station out of Gilroy. At that time I went by Cow Patti and was there for about seven years or so. KCSS is a college station with community volunteers and FAT Sunday is still on air.
In 1998, I became the station manager at KGLP in Gallup, New Mexico. KGLP is a hybrid station in that it is licensed to the community but broadcast from the campus of UNM Gallup, and airs NPR programming with community volunteers on the air.
While there, I began producing “Sounds from the Mother Road.” KSUT out of Ignacio/Durango, Colorado, was instrumental in providing programming for KGLP at the time and I was asked if I could send them the Mother Road show to be aired on KSUT in 2000.
I moved to Bellingham, Washington, to be general manager at KUGS at Western Washington University in 2001. KUGS is a student-operated station that airs Pacifica news and public affairs, and in spring 2016 there were 105 students programming music shows. I am not on air except to fill in during breaks.
When I moved to Washington, KSUT asked me to continue sending them the show and then it was picked up by KSJD [in] Cortez, Colorado. As technology changed, KSUT staff asked if I could put the show on PRX (The Public Radio Exchange).
Where do you work now and what is your show’s name?
As mentioned my job is as the KUGS general manager. Since I am not physically on-air at a station, I produce “Sounds from the Mother Road” from my home and I’m fortunate that the show airs on a few stations including:
KSJD, Cortez Co. Sundays 2 p.m. (MDT)
KSUT. Ignacio, CO. Wednesdays 9 p.m. (MDT)
KCMJ, Colorado Springs, CO. Mondays 9 a.m. (MDT
KMXT, Kodiak, AK. Saturdays noon (AKDT)
WLPR, Lowell, IN. Fridays 3 a.m. (CDT)
WOUB, Athens, OH. Fridays 11 p.m. (EDT)
WEZU, Roanoke Rapids, NC. Saturdays 11 a.m. (EDT)
How do you describe your show?
“Sounds from the Mother Road” is an hour-long, weekly exploration of the last 70 years of American roots music, featuring western swing, country, rockabilly, cowboy tunes, and the artists who continue those traditions today.
How do you define Americana music?
I lean toward music that twangs — honky-tonk, country — and I tend to be Texas-centric. Maybe [that’s] because I did a show that featured what was happening in Austin and Texas in general in the mid-’90s and made a lot of connections with the Texas musicians.
How do you prepare for your shows? Do you ever do theme shows?
It all depends. I do put together theme shows, which have included everything from tunes about trains, four wheels, truckin’ tunes, songs about animals, cities, etc. I also do spotlights of artists who have birthdays during the week of the show, or as remembrances. I usually do a Hank Williams/Townes Van Zandt combo show in January, but I’ve spotlighted Doug Sahm, Chris Gaffney, and others who are significant to the genre.
Most recently [I’ve done shows] remembering Merle Haggard and Guy Clark. I will highlight music festivals, since the Strawberry Music Festival was such an influence on me during my time in California since I started attending in 1984. But [I’ve highlighted] Telluride Bluegrass Festival as well. Also, I will do a more western music show for the Elko Cowboy Poetry Gathering or the Durango Poetry Gathering.
How many new releases do you play? Do you play many independent artists?
I try to mix current releases with old favorites, but sometimes the show is all old stuff. If there is great batch of current releases, I will do a First Spin type of show, highlighting all new releases. Most of the music I play is from independent artists. Since I’m not at a station, the music I receive is through the Third Coast Music mailing list as a FAR reporter, and most recently from the Western Music Association.
What was the first artist or album that got you into roots music?
Wow, that is hard to say! My family is in Texas and I had heard stories about my grandfather coming home for lunch to listen to the Light Crust Doughboy radio shows on WBAP radio in Fort Worth. Also, living in Central California (I grew up in Sacramento and lived in other Central Valley towns), I knew about Buck and Merle and the Maddox family. I was certainly aware of folks in the ’70s out of the Bay Area: Asleep at the Wheel, Commander Cody, and Dan Hicks and his Hot Licks, and of course KFAT. Also FM radio at the time wasn’t so genre-specific, so you could be exposed to a lot of great music.
I don’t believe there was any one album, but in the 1970s I was listening to John Prine, Steve Goodman, David Grisman, Guy Clark, Emmylou Harris, Jerry Jeff Walker, and Dan Hicks. I also lived in Southern California from ’81 to ’83 and got into the rockabilly folks, including the Blasters and Jamie James and the King Bs … oh, Dwight Yoakam and Terry Allen too. Then there was the introduction to the musicians at Strawberry and I started listening to New Grass Revival, Laurie Lewis and Grant Street, Peter Rowan, Hot Rize/Red Knuckles, Riders in the Sky, and so many more.
Who are your favorite artists? What artists define Americana music for you?
If I look back at my playlists, I will usually include something by Doug Sahm, Asleep at the Wheel, Guy Clark, Bob Wills, Wayne Hancock, Nanci Griffith, the Cornell Hurd Band, Dwight Yoakam, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Joe Ely, Butch Hancock. There I go down that Texas rabbit hole.
The artist that defines Americana music for me is a toss-up between Doug Sahm and James Talley.
Where do you see Americana radio, or radio in general, going in the future?
I am really optimistic, based on what I see at the college station. KUGS has been committed to maintaining the 40+ year-old music library, including vinyl. I sometimes get teary-eyed as I watch students comb through the albums. My heart skips a beat when I’m driving around and I hear Taj Mahal followed by Leon Redbone, or someone pulls out a Jimmie Dale Gilmore LP. With that kind of interest in the music and the continued interest in volunteering on air … I believe we’ll be in good hands. If the music is there, they’ll find it.