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‘WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour’ to tape 1000th episode on November 19 featuring Riders In The Sky

WoodSongs creator and host Michael Johnathon (middle) with Kentucky’s acclaimed McClain Family Band. (Photo from Woodsongs)

It’s an old-fashioned radio show, taped for television, in front of a theatre audience. Each week, hundreds of music lovers gather at the historic Lyric Theatre in Lexington to experience the magic of “WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour.”

For 17 years, this home-grown show from the heart of Kentucky has provided a worldwide platform for countless musicians, many of whom are household names, while others are up-and-coming. Now, the biggest “under the radar” live-audience program on public television and radio will reach its milestone 1000th broadcast on November 19—a stunning achievement for any media endeavor, but even more so because “WoodSongs” is completely volunteer-run.

Two-time GRAMMY-winning cowboy quartet and comedy group Riders In The Sky have been tapped to headline the 1000th episode, which will be taped on Tuesday, November 19.

Riders in the Sky

For more than 30 years, Riders in the Sky have entertained audiences young and old by combining classic Western-style music with jokes and comedy sketches, encouraging buckaroos and buckarettes to live the “Cowboy Way.” They have performed from The Hollywood Bowl to the White House, movie soundtracks (“Toy Story 2”), countless TV shows and more. In addition to being inducted into the Grand Ole Opry, the Riders are members of the Western Music Association’s Hall of Fame, the Country Music Foundation’s Walkway of Stars, and the Walk of Western Stars in California. Billboard Magazine called them one of “the most historically significant acts in the history of American music.”

“Of all the artists to celebrate the 1000th broadcast with, I could not think of any other to best represent the spirit and passion of ‘WoodSongs’ than Riders in the Sky,” said folksinger Michael Johnathon, the show’s host and founder. “They are not only friends who have been on the show before, but they had their own live-audience radio broadcast and perform regularly on the Grand Ole Opry. Plus, they are a lot of fun.”

The evolution of “WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour” is extraordinary. Produced by an all-volunteer staff, the program began in 2002 on a single college radio station, and now reaches millions of homes throughout the United States on PBS television affiliates and RFD-TV as well as the American Forces Radio Network in 177 nations.

Unlike most national shows of its kind, which focus on major celebrities, “WoodSongs” is known for featuring both nationally known musicians and up-and-coming artists, primarily in the Folk/Americana realm, though not exclusively. Previous guests have included John Oates, Jewel, Rhonda Vincent, Judy Collins, Bela Fleck, Tommy Emmanuel, Molly Tuttle and many more. Most episodes also provide invaluable exposure for a “WoodSongs Kid,” a young artist whose talent Johnathon believes should be recognized.

“In every show, I remind the audience that you don’t have to be famous to be on ‘WoodSongs,’ just very, very good,” Johnathon said. “It’s more important than ever to encourage young artists to pursue their dream for the sake of performing, not necessarily just to make money, because most of them won’t. The music business is harder than ever, but as an art form and a way to bring people together, music is priceless.”

Michael Johnathon

Johnathon, a prolific folksinger, songwriter and author, grew up along the Hudson River in Upstate New York, next door to legendary folksinger Pete Seeger. Seeger urged him to move to Appalachia and get to know the people, if he wanted to be a true folksinger. At age 19, Johnathon bought a banjo and a guitar, and settled in a small town in Eastern Kentucky. Today, he resides in a log cabin on a hillside on the outskirts of Lexington.

Through the years, Johnathon has released 14 albums, five published books and several national projects, most recently the folk music symphony, “Songs of Rural America.” His play, “Walden: The Ballad of Thoreau,” has been performed over 9400 times in 42 countries. A self-proclaimed “tree-hugger,” Johnathon has performed 2,000 “Earth Concerts” at schools and colleges, as well as benefits for the homeless, farm families, and shelters that serve battered women and children. Billboard hailed him as an “UnSung Hero.” He has been featured on CNN, TNN, CMT, AP, Headline News, NPR, Bravo and the BBC.

Recently, Johnathon helped organize the national WoodSongs Front Porch Association to help organize rural and community music and a massive educational program. Members of the WFPA are called “SongFarmers,” which is also the title of his recent album, the very first national CD release to be completely recorded on an iPhone. His new 176-page book “WoodSongs 4” was released in June of 2019 and his next album, “Legacy,” will be released in February of 2020.

The 1000th episode of “WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour,” featuring Riders in the Sky, will be taped at The Lyric Theatre, 300 E. Third Street, Lexington, Kentucky 40508 on Tuesday, November 19, at 6:45 p.m. Doors will open at 6:20. Tickets are $35 general admission; $25 for WoodSongs Partners. For ticket information, visit www.WoodSongs.com or call 859-280-2218.

From WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour

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