Mountain Stage continues to thrive as it celebrates 40 years on West Virginia Public Broadcasting.
LARRY GROCE FONDLY REMEMBERS HOW MOUNTAIN STAGE CAME TO BE like it happened yesterday instead of 40 years ago. With friends Andy Ridenour and Francis Fisher, he was the voice of what would become one of West Virginia’s most popular live music showcases.
The show got its start in 1983, and it wasn’t always smooth sailing. “We found that it was a challenge, and people told us many times that we couldn’t do a show like this from West Virginia,” Groce says. “But the kind of show we do can only be done from West Virginia.” Artists, he explains, don’t pass through the Mountain State the same way they do through bigger cities—the venues aren’t here. But for some performers, a gig like Mountain Stage is a perfect stop between more urban locales.
From up-and-comers to seasoned pros, Mountain Stage has welcomed a variety of artists—Randy Newman, Tyler Childers, Sheryl Crow. “R.E.M. opened a lot of doors for us,” Groce remembers. He says the show doesn’t “make anyone famous,” but simply gives them a unique opportunity to showcase their talents. If they happen to grow into fame later, it’s just an interesting fact in an already cool story.
Back in 2021, Groce made the decision to step down from hosting after nearly 900 straight shows. That’s where the current host, singer–songwriter Kathy Mattea, comes in—”She is a big part of the way things are.” According to Groce, the West Virginia native just may be what the show needs to continue its upward climb.
“Very few radio shows go on this long,” he says, and credits the success of Mountain Stage to its team. Without them, the beloved show wouldn’t exist. “Many team members have worked here over 25 or 30 years. It’s a strong, strong team, and that is part of the reason why we’ve survived.” After 40 years, almost 300 stations carrying the show all across the country, and word continuing to spread, it’s fair to say Mountain Stage has done much more than survive.