SAYING FAREWELL TO SIDETRACKS & PLUNGING INTO A MOUNTAIN STREAM:
A Message to Listeners from Ed McDonald
Sidetracks Host and Mountain Streams Manager
At the close of a week filled with fond farewells and challenging new adventures, I want to take a moment to share a few thoughts about my life as host of a syndicated radio show and a look ahead to life after Sidetracks.
For nearly 25 years (the early history is not well documented), I have been hosting and distributing a weekly music show from the modest EIO Studio in our basement here in Keyser, WV. It started as a program called “The Natural Blend,” and sometime around 1998 it evolved into “Sidetracks.” Our earliest permanent “affiliate” station and the one that will continue to broadcast the show for a few more weeks is Allegheny Mountain Radio, a remarkable little network of community radio stations, based in Pocahontas County, WV. Over the years, Sidetracks has been heard on as many as a dozen stations in various far-flung parts of the country. Perhaps most notably, though, sometime around 2003 the show went statewide—first on Friday nights and later on Sunday evenings—on West Virginia Public Radio, where it has remained on the air each week until now.
Early in 2017, Mountain Streams Radio began broadcasting here in Keyser, and I took on the job of building a small community radio station into what we hope will become a worldwide home for the kinds of music that have been a part of Sidetracks through these many years. As the role of station managing has become more and more demanding, I have scaled back the amount of time and energy devoted to the production and distribution of a syndicated weekly show. For some time now, all episodes have been reruns, except for one new show each month called “Mountain Streams Monthly”—a show featuring music and musicians from in and around the state of West Virginia.
Alas, in the summer of 2019, I knew my time had come to say farewell to the radio syndication business. As a station programmer myself, I understood that a conscientious radio station would not choose to air a weekly music series consisting almost entirely of recycled shows. Accordingly, I announced my intention to end the syndication of Sidetracks by the end of 2019. I offered our affiliate stations the choice of ending their broadcast of the show on a date that best suited their individual programming needs and plans. West Virginia Public Broadcasting chose Sunday, September 8, 2019, as the date for my final broadcast. I, in turn, chose to make that final WVPB broadcast my last “new” show.
Despite what turned out to be somewhat less lead time than I had anticipated, I assembled a show that included some personal favorites and artist tributes, along with a few songs with important messages for and about the state of West Virginia. If you missed that swan song or simply yearn to hear it again, you can Listen to Final Sidetracks Radio show Here!
Meanwhile, old episodes of Sidetracks will continue to be broadcast each week here on Mountain Streams Radio, Saturdays at 11:00 AM, Sundays at noon, and Monday evenings at 7:00. The show will also continue on Allegheny Mountain Radio, Sundays at 11:00 AM through October.
At the same time, I plan to commit much more of my time and energy toward building Mountain Streams Radio into not only a viable radio service for the Keyser/Mineral County community, but also a high-quality online source for the kinds of music that I have shared with listening audiences ever since my earliest days in college radio some fifty years ago.
Starting as soon as the technology can be put into place, I plan to begin hosting several hours each week of music programming on Mountain Streams Radio. The computer will choose the music for each hour from a variety of categories, and I will add some identification and other information. In addition, we are ready to launch a serious effort to raise funds to create an Internet audio stream, so that Mountain Streams Radio can flow from Keyser, WV, to listeners anywhere in the world. We will continue to include in each hour a generous helping of homegrown Appalachian music “from the hills of West Virginia and beyond.” We will feature artists and recordings from the past and present, and we hope listeners will turn to us for a constantly expanding and carefully curated mix that respects and reflects the roots of American music.
Since the last WVPB show aired on Sunday evening, I have been honored and humbled to receive or to learn about so many kind comments and social media reactions to the radio show I have hosted for so long. Despite having occasional doubts and questions about my talent as a radio host, I am pleased to know that so many listeners tuned in and enjoyed my work. It was not an easy decision to unplug one microphone and connect another, but now that I have done it, it feels right.
I am enthusiastic about my choices; I feel pretty good for a guy approaching 70; and I am blessed with a wife who is not only my best friend, but who also shares a love of music and a lifelong loyalty to the state of West Virginia. We have been blessed, and we will continue to find ways to share the blessing.