Happy 36th birthday to Mountain Stage!

There’s a spring in the mountain and it flows down to the town.

From the river to the ocean it goes the whole world round.

That spring water goes the whole world round …

For more than three decades these lines have greeted audiences as the opener for the popular radio show, “Mountain Stage with Larry Groce.” In fact, the song has become such an identifier that fans can name that tune in three notes.

The instant recognition of “A Simple Song” speaks volumes for the show’s longevity and global reach. On Dec. 1, Mountain Stage closes out the 2019 season at the Culture Center Theater at the State Capitol with its 36th anniversary show featuring Tyler Childers, Johnny Staats and the Delivery Boys and more.

The show is West Virginia’s musical crown jewel. Produced by West Virginia Public Broadcasting and distributed worldwide by NPR Music, Mountain Stage brings international attention to the Mountain State with its eclectic mix of music and phenomenal talent.

Host Larry Groce has been with the show since its inception. In the early 1980s, Groce — a West Virginia transplant credited with the Top Ten hit “Junk Food Junkie” as well as a string of platinum Disney recordings — connected with Andy Ridenour and Francis Fisher of West Virginia Public Radio to discuss a new show the men were developing. In 1983, Mountain Stage went live.

Mountain Stage is broadcast on more than 200 NPR stations, but there’s just something special about experiencing it in person. The show has traveled to venues all over the world, but it is most often broadcast from its home base in Charleston.

Each show typically features four to five acts from a variety of genres, as well as a couple of performances by the house band. A glance at the guest artist list over the years reveals such big-name acts as John Prine, Taj Mahal, Warren Zevon, Cassandra Wilson, Steve Earle, Norah Jones, Jason Isbell, Ani DiFranco, Koko Taylor, Rosanne Cash and even R.E.M., whose members were such big fans of Mountain Stage that they contacted the producers and asked to perform. R.E.M.’s often-bootlegged 1991 performance on the show was recently released commercially for the first time as part of the band’s 2016 deluxe re-issue of “Out of Time.”

The show also spotlights West Virginia’s many talented natives, from chart-topping veterans Kathy Mattea and Brad Paisley, to Grammy winning roots musician Tim O’Brien, to rising stars Christian Lopez and indie rock band Ona.

A live performance often runs well over two hours, but the show must be cut to fit its two-hour time slot. That means members of the live audience can enjoy bonus songs, not to mention the opportunity to chat with a few of the performers after the show and maybe even earn bragging rights to “I knew them when…”

Who are you most excited to see Sunday?

This post was last updated on March 17, 2022