Tue 7 Apr 2020 to Thu 7 May 2020

In the 1990s, Jan Dale rented out her house in Melbourne, left her career in the film industry behind, and hopped on a plane headed for the USA. Her adventure lasted five years and what she found there continues to shape her PBS program, Southern Style.

Jan Dale. Photo by Susan Gordon-Brown
Jan Dale. Photo by
Susan Gordon-Brown

Jan took a Kombi through every mainland state, going to gigs and festivals all over the country. Her dedication to this adventure lasted longer than the 6 month maximum stay in the States, meaning she had to come back home and work to top up her funds, or go visit her brother in the UK, before returning to her Kombi and to life on the road. Apart from the adventure through beautiful scenery, what captured her and kept her coming back was the fast tempo and acoustic instruments of bluegrass, old time music, blues of the Mississippi Delta and Cajun in Louisiana. Not to mention the irresistible drive to dance, the uplifting spirit of the songs and the undeniable skill of the musicians.

In 1997 Southern Style made its radio debut on Melton FM. Jan’s aim was to bring the sound track of her adventure to Australia and breathe life into bluegrass, blues and old time music in her homeland. Despite these genres having arrived in Australia in the 1950s, there wasn’t much to be heard, and Jan wanted to change that.


Southern Style made the move to PBS in 2001 where Jan found a longterm home for herself and her program. She loves the independence that PBS fosters, programming her own show and never being told what to play. She enjoys, and is a master of, the technical side of broadcasting and loves when people send in funny and supportive messages. 

Over her career Jan has conducted hundreds of interviews, both in the studio and in the field. Jan might also be nearing the top of the leaderboard at PBS for fitting the most musicians in a studio at one time.

When the Bing Brothers Band from West Virginia came into the studio a few years ago, Jan had a good time fitting all seven of them into the tiny studio and was nearly blasted away by the volume, not to mention getting them all to share only two microphones.

To top that, the Strzleckie Stringbusters brought 11 of their 14 members over from Gippsland to squish into Studio 5 for a live to air set. Jan always strives to do these fantastic bands justice on air, even when she's freshly jetlagged and interviewing one of the biggest names in bluegrass, Missy Raines.

Jan Dale and the Missy Rain Trio
Jan Dale and the Missy Rain Trio

 

As one of so few Southern music-focused radio shows outside of the USA, Southern Style has become renowned in its niche. In 2019 Jan was one of five people nominated for the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Broadcaster of the Year award, becoming the first ever non-US based nominee. This follows her selection for the 2018 Mick Geyer Award, celebrating her longstanding contribution to PBS, community radio and the general music community in Australia.

Today Jan writes for American magazine Bluegrass Unlimited and has just finished writing a memoir of her Kombi days (keep an eye out for this later in the year). She has travelled regularly to the United States to MC and compère at huge Bluegrass events, introducing some of the most lauded names in the business. Otherwise, Jan enjoys bushwalking and camping and, of course, her time on air at PBS.

You can hear Jan on Southern Style every Tuesday from 1pm until 3pm, and if you want to support Jan and the station, you can become a member of Southern Style here.

Banner photo of Jan Dale with Australian born, US based bluegrass star, Kristy Cox.

 

Thanks to Eve Fraser for this article.