Swappin' stories

-A A +A
By Tracy Harris

If you want to hear a good story, this Briar Hill resident has plenty. 

Tune to 91.9 WFPK Wednesday nights and you can listen to the adventures of his walking group, his two-week protest walk or whatever other mayhem he’s encountered recently.

Even better, once a month you can watch the show live.

Bob Thompson, the self-appointed commissioner of Kentucky front porches, is a storyteller on the Kentucky Homefront radio show.

The show is all about “front porch pickin’ and stories,” featuring local musicians and storytellers.

Each show features a number of musical performances, mostly by folk, bluegrass and acoustic

Thompson performs a storytelling segment during most shows, each about seven minutes long.

Thompson said it’s just like sitting on someone’s porch, listening to music and swapping tales.

The show’s first iteration started in 1984 and Thompson appeared on the show as a guest storyteller. 

Homefront stopped for a year or two, Thompson said, but host John Gage restarted it in 2002.

Gage wanted storytelling to be a more integral part of the show, and added Thompson as a sort of sidekick.

“I interject levity and unpredictability,” Thompson said.

Each month, the show is performed at the Clifton Center and taped to create two one-hour radio shows for WFPK.

There are a few off-site show recordings, too, like at Bluegrass on the Square in Corydon, Ind., and Iroquois Amphitheater. 

About 125 people attend each live show, while about 15,000 listen to weekly radio broadcasts.

Thompson said even though most of the performers aren’t well-known names, the music is always good – possibly because Homefront organizers are committed to paying every performer.

They don’t pay enough to bring big acts, Thompson said, although sometimes acts will return after they make it “sort-of big.”

Thompson has an engineering background but has been a professional storyteller for more than 25 years, he said.

He said it lets him use both sides of his brain.

“I’m not going to get a Nobel Prize for physics or a Pulitzer prize for the other,” he said, “But I do OK.”

Having the radio show deadline looming each month forces Thompson to write more than he would on his own, he admitted. 

A seven-minute story is about three or four pages.

Plus Thompson writes shorter three- to four-minute scripts as dialogue between musical performances.

Those bits give the show context and background, he said, and he hopes they’re a little bit funny, too.

The show is designed to promote folklore and community, Thompson said.

The next performance of Kentucky Homefront is 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Clifton Center. 

Tickets are $12 and information is available at KentuckyHomefront.org.