Accomplished music journalist and radio host Alan K. Stout recalls an instance when the gravity of his “Music On the Menu Live” series hit him in the moment.
“I remember one time, we were doing a show with SUZE,” Stout said of the local rock band with Kingston roots. “I remember they were so great; they were really bringing it. I remember sitting in the club watching them and realizing, ‘This is on the radio.’”
Following a hiatus that began in December, Stout — a longtime journalist for the Times Leader, Weekender and other area publications, and current radio personality on Bold Gold Media Group’s 105 The River — will relaunch “Music On The Menu Live” at 7 p.m. April 3 from Breakers at Mohegan Sun Pocono in Plains Township. Singer-songwriter, guitarist and Northeastern Pennsylvania native Mike MiZ will be the featured artist, and the Weekender will be co-presenting the series, rekindling a long-standing relationship between Stout and the publication and sparking a new partnership with the Weekender and 105 The River.
Following the re-launch, “Music On The Menu Live” will take place on the first Tuesday of every month.
The local, original music series, began in 2014 as a live performance tributary of Stout’s regular radio show, “Music On The Menu,” which airs from 9 to 10 p.m. on Sundays. The concept, Stout says, is to give NEPA artists an opportunity to showcase their music for a full hour, uninterrupted, and broadcast it over commercial airwaves. Featured artists have included Gentlemen East, Teddy Young, Dani-elle, Skip Monday and the late George Wesley.
“I try to encourage a “Storytellers” type of atmosphere,” Stout said. “Some artists like to get up there and talk about the inspirations for their songs, and with others, they just get up there and play.”
While the radio show has continued without a hitch, the live series had to be shelved while construction was finished on The River’s new studio at Mohegan Sun Pocono, which is situated near the stairs that lead down to Pacer’s Clubhouse and The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono.
“I was kidding around with my producer, saying, ‘On Thursdays, you’ll have 4 or 5,000 people walking by you for Party On The Patio,’” Stout said. “It’s a unique situation. Usually radio stations are tucked away.”
The origins of “Music On The Menu” date back to 1994, when Stout began writing a column of the same name for the Times Leader, and the idea has grown with him throughout his career — he facilitated live events at various local venues and hosted the radio show for another regional FM frequency before landing at 105 The River and Mohegan Sun Pocono, but the focus has always been on local artistry.
“I wanted to do something really different,” Stout said of the impetus for adding the live element to his broadcasts. “I wanted to do it once a month, because I thought the talent pool in the region could sustain one artist a month for a few years.”
His biggest surprise, he said, was when local program directors not only allowed him to put local music in the weekly queue but also approved regular live performances by NEPA songsmiths.
“To give an hour and hand the keys to a local artist — I don’t think another commercial radio station is doing that,” he said.
And that’s the key ingredient for Stout. That’s what makes it so special for him as a journalist, a radio host and a genuine fan of local music.
“The beauty … isn’t the fact that their friends and family are tuned in, because of course they are,” Stout said. I expect that. What I don’t expect … the thing I really love is we have people who might not realize that it’s Tuesday at 7 p.m., and they just throw on the radio station like they always do, expecting to hear Springsteen or Billy Joel or Eric Clapton, and they hear MiZ — and they listen for a while and are exposed to music they never heard before.
“It’s the guy washing dishes in the back of the restaurant, and it’s the truck driver driving through town, and he’s searching because he’s not from the area, and he hears MiZ; that’s the exciting thing about the randomness.”
MiZ, whose latest studio album, “A Year Ago Today,” was released in January, was a fitting choice to re-introduce the series, according to Stout, because he had new music to share and had been featured in the past.
“Once we heard that record … and we knew we were re-launching, Mike was the first person we thought of,” Stout said. “These songs will sound great on the radio.”
MiZ has toured outside of NEPA on the merits of his original music, and he realizes the value of the type of exposure “Music On The Menu Live” provides to unsigned and grass-roots musicians.
“The ‘Music On The Menu Live’ series affords artists like myself a rare opportunity to play live on a mainstream radio station, uninterrupted, for a full hour,” MiZ said. “Opportunities like this don’t come often for regionally touring musicians … so it’s an honor and a joy to get to be part of such a great event.
“I’m really happy to be asked back by Alan. I highly respect everything he does, and it coincides perfectly with the release of my new album.”