Kathy Mattea Is a Perfect Pick for “Mountain Stage” Host

photo: Reto Sterchi

There are a few fundamental reasons the music from West Virginia, Kentucky, and surrounding areas is all the rage currently in country and roots music, and one of them can be drawn back directly to the 37-year-old program often broadcasting from the Cultural Center Theater in Charleston WV called Mountain Stage. Tyler Childers, Sturgill Simpson, Sierra Ferrell, John R. Miller, and so many more started sowing their grassroots through appearances on that stage, while artists from across the music world have also had the honor to appear on the program.

Mountain Stage’s longtime host Larry Groce is not going anywhere just yet, so there’s no call for misty eyes and career retrospectives. But after having co-founded and hosted the show since 1983, it was announced last week that Larry will be seceding regular weekly host duties to none other than Kathy Mattea. Groce will still host upon occasion, and stay on as an artistic director.

Meanwhile, this feels like a big deal for Kathy Mattea, for Mountain Stage, and for the many artists that appear on the program. The pick is a natural fit. Mattea is from South Charleston herself. She has appeared on the show more times than any other woman, and is only out-tenured in appearances by fellow West Virginia native Tim O’Brien. Kathy has also hosted the program in the past.

Of course country fans know Kathy Mattea well after her major run in the late 80’s into the early 90’s, minting four #1 singles, and a pretty incredible string of 15 Top 10’s, turning songs like “Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses” into bonafide standards. But when the big radio hits gave out, she didn’t give up, she just kept on doing her thing, and is considered invaluable to the roots scene in Appalachia.

“Kathy’s been coming on the show for more than 30 years now, and in all that time and with all her success, she really hasn’t changed who she is at her core,” says Larry Groce. “She embodies the best of West Virginia the same way Mountain Stage does, and that’s how I knew she’d be the perfect person for this job.”

Mountain Stage has also broadcast from remote locations upon occasion, including from Canada and other locales. Produced by West Virginia Public Broadcasting, the program primarily lives on NPR station WVPB, but is carried by many other affiliates, and can be found online as well.

“There’s something quintessentially West Virginia about Mountain Stage,” says Kathy Mattea. “Beyond the world-class performances, beyond the collaborative atmosphere, beyond how much fun it is, I think the show offers a really important insight into the people and the culture that makes West Virginia so special, and I’m always thrilled to help share that with the world.”

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