FOR generations, West Virginia has been known as an energy state - producing coal and natural gas from within the state's borders for consumption here and across the U.S. and world.
The Mountain State produces another high-energy export - live music.
For 30 years, the international radio show Mountain Stage has emanated from the Culture Center Theater in Charleston on many Sunday evenings. Host Larry Groce and his compatriots at West Virginia Public Broadcasting have been bringing musicians to Charleston from around the world, introducing them to West Virginia hospitality and sharing their songs for the world to hear.
Several artists - Mary Chapin Carpenter, Alison Krause, Phish and Counting Crows among them -
experienced their earliest national radio exposure on Mountain Stage on their way to national fame.
Other notables - including Buddy Guy, Bill Monroe, Doc Watson, REM, and West Virginia natives Brad Paisley and Kathy Mattea, to name a few - have played the show to the delight of fans.
The show started with now-retired executive producer Andy Ridenour in search of interesting new programming. He thought Charleston pianist Bob Thompson and his band could do a good live performance on radio. Enter Francis Fisher, who with Ridenour suggested recruiting new West Virginia resident and pop singer Groce to host.
Now, 30 years and 808 shows later, Mountain Stage continues to be - as described by country musician Marty Stuart - "the coolest radio show on Planet Earth." For just a few dollars to watch in the theater live, or free to listen on public radio stations and the internet at www.mountainstage.org, music lovers can experience some of the most refreshing live performances anywhere.