With a new name and some fresh faces, the third season of "Rolling Hills Radio" begins this month.
Formerly known as the "Woodsongs Coffeehouse Radio Hour," "Rolling Hills Radio" may be a new name, but many things are still the same.
The shows will continue to be hosted by local musician Ken Hardley in conjunction with WRFA-LP, 107.9, Radio For The Arts, will still be located at Jamestown's Labyrinth Press Co., and will be recorded the last Thursday of each month at 7 p.m.
Bat McGrath, born in Glens Falls, well known for his work with Chuck Mangione, 11 albums and various songs cut by other artists, will open the 2012-13 “Rolling Hills Radio” season with Miche Fambro on Sept 27.
"We were affiliated with the 'WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour,'" said Hardley. "But, we decided to move on to a more independent direction."
There will be a total of eight live recordings between now and April 2013, with a few surprises outside of the live shows, said Hardley. The season kicks off on Thursday, Sept. 27, with Bat McGrath and Miche Fambro.
When the first radio show started, Hardley never dreamed of having performances by artists of such magnitude as Bat McGrath, he said.
"I spoke with Bat, and he has a new album coming out," Hardley continued. "He was figuring that the timing is going to line up so that our show is going to be the first time it is available for sale."
The show will also feature Fambro, who is a friend of Hardley's from Geneseo. According to Hardley, Jamestown is lucky to have him because he is a very talented and eclectic musician who hardly ever makes it to this area.
The other musicians scheduled throughout the season include: Jeff Riales and Matt Homan and The Bluegrass Disciples on Oct. 25; John and Mary and Alan Whitney on Nov. 29; Chris Bell and Suzie Willpower on Dec. 27; John Latini and Modified Nouns on Jan. 31; John Merino and Maria Gillard on Feb. 28; and Cammy Enaharo and Annie Wells on April 28.
"We'll have mostly local and area musicians," said Hardley. "But, we have a few national artists too. To see artists in this kind of setting is truly unique. The room doesn't hold more than 50 people, so guests get an opportunity to see artists of great magnitude in a personal setting. And, how often do you get to see artists like Jeff Erickson and Dennis Drew out of the context of 10,000 Maniacs?"
The performance by Drew and Erickson is scheduled towards the end of the "Rolling Hills Radio" season on March 28, 2013. But, Drew is already very excited to be involved in the project, he said.
"Since WRFA is radio for the arts, 'Rolling Hills Radio' is a natural fit for us," Drew, 10,000 Maniacs keyboardist and general manager of WRFA, continued. "I love the whole concept of live music on the radio. The Maniacs have done many events like this, and they are always exciting ... and I was looking for a way to bring that excitement to WRFA. Luckily Ken stepped up and put 'Rolling Hills Radio' together. It's really an enormous amount of work, and it wouldn't be possible to do with out his effort."
But, Hardley isn't the only one to thank for making the event happen, according to Drew. The two major sponsors that make the show possible include Univera Healthcare and Trinity Guitars. Early support from the two allowed the show to turn into something worthy of national attention, he said.
"Some of the grant money WRFA receives is restricted to buying or producing programs for national syndication," said Drew. "Our plan is to turn 'Rolling Hills Radio' into a nationally syndicated radio show. WRFA and The Arts Council are thrilled at the prospect of thousands of listeners on hundreds of radio stations around the world being exposed to Jamestown, and the great music culture we have here."
"The two great aspects of 'Rolling Hills Radio' that make it such a great show are the top quality musicians Ken attracts, and the easy rapport he has with them as they discuss the inspiration behind their music," he continued. "I can't wait for the season to begin, and then our very special season finale. On July 28, WRFA will present 'Rolling Hills Radio' featuring 10,000 Maniacs at the Amphitheater at Chautauqua Institution."
Hardley's interviews with the musicians are another aspect of the show that makes it unique.
"Yes it's a music show, but as much as, or maybe even more than that, we're getting to know the musicians," said Hardley. "I've found that to be the most rewarding part of the show so far. I never really interviewed anyone before I did this show, and what I didn't realize is that musicians love to talk. And, they are all interesting characters in their own right. So, it's become one of the more compelling parts of the show that keeps people coming back."
"One of our loyal attendees told me last year that he and his wife come to every show not knowing what's going to happen, but every time he leaves, he walks out knowing that he has seen something different and worthy," Hardley continued. "And, we have that this year - probably more than ever."
Those interested in the past two seasons can visit wrfalp.com to listen to the live recordings.
The events can also be found on Facebook by searching for "Rolling Hills Radio." Or, for more information, including purchasing tickets for individual shows or patron tickets, visit reglenna.com/rolling-hills-radio. Tickets to individual shows are $5, and patron tickets are $60. Patron tickets give guests early access to all eight shows with reserved seating. Hardley recommends buying advance tickets to ensure entry. The venue, Labyrinth Press. Co., is located at 12 E. Fourth St. in Jamestown.