KVMR Original Returns for ‘Honky Tonk Queens’ this Saturday
You wouldn’t be far off if you called T. J. Meekins a KVMR original.
In fact, she was the very first winner of what’s become known as the John Nichols Award for Excellence in Musical Programming at the eclectic, non-commercial Nevada City radio station back in 1990.
Yup, T.J. was there in KVMR’s early days, producing and hosted the “Hillbilly Jukebox” on Saturday afternoons from 1980 to 1993, helping establish the folk/country/roots feel of that day’s programming that continues to this day.
“It was a jukebox show, so I could play anything I wanted,” recalls Meekins. “I liked to start out with old-timey music and work my way forward.”
So it’s no wonder the station has invited Meekins back as a guest host to present her “Honky Tonk Queens” special during KVMR’s winter membership drive this very Saturday (3 p.m. to 6 p.m., 89.5 FM, kvmr.org streaming).
She’ll feature what she calls “High-Kickin’ Cowgirls” like Rose Maddox, Jean Shepard and Patsy Cline her first hour. Then it’s “Hillbilly Thrushes” like Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton, followed by an hour of, yes, “Outlaw Angels” from a more contemporary era that includes Emmylou Harris, k.d. lang and many others.
In addition, she’ll hang out with KVMR Saturday afternoon hosts Wesley Robertson and Thomas Greener during their “Cowboys and Indians” Saturday membership special 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. “It’s the KVMR way,” smiles Program Director Steve Baker.
Meekins’ passion for true country music and her quest for knowledge about it go back to, no surprise really, her childhood.
“I grew up on country music,” she says. “When I was a tot in L.A., my Dad would take me to supermarket openings and car lot promotions where there’d be a hillbilly band and a country DJ warming up the crowd.”
“He would lift me up to the bandstand so I could shake hands with The Squeakin’ Deacon or my then-favorite star, Walkin’ Charlie Aldrich. I loved Cliffie Stone’s ‘Hometown Jamboree’ on TV, with little Molly Bee and Tennessee Ernie Ford.”
Meekins knows she won’t be able to get to all of her favorite “Honky Tonk Queens” this Saturday, but the inspiration is still there.
“I remember when I was a teenager I’d like awake ‘til after midnight, twisting the radio dial and hoping to hear Patsy Cline sing ‘I Fall To Pieces’ with that heartbreak in her voice.”
“And I was a fan of Norma Jean on ‘The Porter Wagoner Show’ on TV and though no other girl singer could take her place until Dolly Parton appeared with her incredible songwriting and harmony singing and glued me to the tube.”
“She could out-do Porter with the quaver in her voice,” according to Meekins.
One of the highlights of T.J.’s times at KVMR was her relationship with the late Rose Maddox, whom she met on her radio show and how it evolved.
“Rose let me have a backstage look at her life, as I followed her form gig to gig,” she explains.
“Friday nights at the 23 Club in Brisbane for the hipsters, Saturday night at the Elks Hall in Modesto for the cowboys, then Sunday morning she’d pull on her boots and greet the Democratic Ladies brunch in Columbia with a beautiful smile.
According to Meekins, “Rose put here whole self into her songs and put thousands of miles on her Cadillacs.”
In 1987, Meekins and KVMR hosted a birthday party for Maddox in honor of her 50 years in country music.
“Fans streamed in until the AVM (now Miner’s Foundry) was jammed to the rafters with cowboy hats and boots. She had a great birthday. We were just floored at the station…”
Today’s commercial pop country music doesn’t interest Meekins much.
“I like to complain that these young country artists never missed a meal or plowed behind a mule, and you can hear it in the music. There’s an edge that’s not there anymore. But I’m one of those people who think everything interesting happened before I was born.”
For more on Meekins’ life and times at KVMR, see her blog at the station website, kvmr.org
ITAL CULTURE LIVE
KVMR’s Friday night reggae show (8 p.m. to 10 p.m., 89.5 FM, kvmr.org streaming) gets even livelier this week when host Redlocks performs the show at the Crazy Horse club in downtown Nevada City during this week’s membership drive.
(KVMR 89.5 FM’s membership drive continues through Sunday, with information on special programming and thank you gifts available online at kvmr.org and by calling 530/265-9555)
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