Inside Appalachia: Making Memories on Mountain Stage with R.E.M. & More

May 20, 2016


You might have heard of this radio show called Mountain Stage. The show, produced by folks right here in Appalachia, has been featuring artists from across the world for more than 30 years.

Mountain Stage is one of the longest running live music performance shows on public radio.  It began in 1983 and has featured nearly 2,000 acts from more than 50 countries--and nearly every conceivable genre--for a catalogue of 871 shows (and counting).  

Mountain Stage is currently heard on over 170 public radio stations across the country and is regularly in the Top 30 music podcasts on iTunes. All these years later, Mountain Stage is still going strong, with the estimable founder and host Larry Groce still at the reins.  

With such a storied history, there is little doubt the show has helped to create a lot of memories over the years.

Mountain Stage celebrated their 30th anniversary in December 2013.
Credit Josh Saul / Mountain Stage

With that in mind, Dave Mistich of West Virginia Public Broadcasting produced a documentary in 2013 to celebrate Mountain Stage’s 30th anniversary. In it, Dave shares the roots of the show and details how things have evolved over the years.  You’ll hear dozens of interviews, including ones from West Virginia musicians Tim O’Brien and Kathy Mattea, Mountain Stage band members and the show’s original founders.

This year also marks another important anniversary for Mountain Stage. 2016 serves as the 25th anniversary of the time that R.E.M. performed on the show. For those who experienced it, Mountain Stage on April 28, 1991 was an unforgettable event.

That day R.E.M., unquestionably one of the most popular bands at that time, emerged from a brief touring hiatus to perform on Mountain Stage in Charleston, West Virginia.

Michael Stipe of R.E.M. performs with his band on Mountain Stage on April 28, 1991.
Credit Mark Wolfe

“[The] appearance was important for us to do because it was certainly off the normal beaten path for a rock band. It was not New York or London or L.A. We went to all of those places. But we also went to Charleston, West Virginia and did the Mountain Stage show in that spring of ‘91,” said R.E.M. band advisor Bertis Downs.

And Downs and the band aren’t the only ones with memories of that performance.

“I remember two things in particular.  The first:  I went with a woman with whom I'd just broken up with, but I had no one else to go with, so we ended up going together.  We stayed together for two more years after that,” said Brad Diller, who was at the show. 

“I also remember the encore after the show.  Michael Stipe came out and said ‘we're off the air so now we can cuss.’ Then he said, ‘Bush’--referring to the president at the time," Diller added.

Mountain Stage has set up a page that makes it easy to share your stories.

Music in today’s show was provided by musicians and artists from Mountain Stage including  Hooray for the Riff Raff, Vieux Farka Touré, Rosanne Cash, R.E.M., Bob Thompson and more.

Our producer is Roxy Todd. Our show was edited by Dave Mistich. Our audio mixer is Zander Aloi. Our newest member of the team is Katelyn Campbell.

We’d love to hear from you.   You can e-mail us at Find us on Twitter @InAppalachia or @JessicaYLilly.