Behind The Mic with Brian McNeal

Today we launch a new feature which we hope will be a weekly column highlighting the many bluegrass broadcasters who report their spins for our Bluegrass Today Weekly Airplay Chart. We want to give them a little bump for helping us create the chart, and believe that our readers will enjoy getting to know a little bit about the people Behind The Mic.

Brian McNealWe’re starting our Behind The Mic series with a man whose voice is probably quite familiar to many bluegrass fans: Brian McNeal, host of Prescription Bluegrass.

Most readers of Bluegrass Today can probably attest to having a strong case of bluegrass fever. Some might get their daily “cure” from listening to the radio, checking out new albums, or perhaps looking up the latest news in bluegrass. Serious fans can get their fix from DJ and blogger McNeal, host of the Prescription Bluegrass radio show, an hour-long weekly program which is syndicated to over 50 radio stations and also broadcast over the Internet.

McNeal oversees Prescription Bluegrass Media, which includes not only the radio show, but also a frequently-updated blog, a newsletter, and “Front Page Bluegrass News,” a twice-weekly bluegrass news update for radio stations. The Prescription Bluegrass Blog offers fans a look at the latest in bluegrass news, including tips for musicians and reviews of new albums from every side of the bluegrass and acoustic music spectrum.

McNeal, a native of Cheyenne, Wyoming who currently makes his home in the southwest, says he’s been captivated by radio since he was very young. He can remember seeing and hearing a radio for the first time around the age of three. He says, “There was magic coming out of that box and I never got over that feeling. That’s when I knew I had to somehow be connected to that magic on a deeper level.” He decided on a career in radio by the time he was nine years old, and has worked as a broadcaster for the past 44 years.

He recently took the time to answer a few questions for us, giving readers a behind-the-mic glimpse of his bluegrass life.

How would you define “bluegrass music” as a genre?

“Bluegrass music is an indescribable and intangible feeling or emotion that is infectious. It conjures up passionate standard bearers from one end of the spectrum to the other. In its simplest form, it is string band music with Appalachian mountain origins. However, with evolutionary changes, it has become much more complex and rivals the most sophisticated jazz arrangements.”

What form of bluegrass do you most enjoy?

“I can’t choose just one. There are really fine examples in all of the various labels.”

If you could only listen to one album for the rest of your life, which one would it be? Why?

“Again, I couldn’t answer with just one. If I only had one, it wouldn’t be long before I choose to listen to nothing at all. I like variety and even though a song may be my favorite for a time, a new one will soon take its place and on and on. It’s not that I’m a fickle fan, it’s more like I’m afraid to wear out just one or to burn out on it myself. I’d rather just give it a rest and then come back and like it all over again at a later date.”

What album is currently in your car stereo?

“I make my own mixes on MP3 and plug that into the dash. So I always get a variety.”

What’s the best way for an artist to get their music to you?

“Any way they can get it here. I had one group actually send their music on a 78 rpm acetate disc as a promotional gimmick.”

McNeal says that artists wishing to have their music played on his radio show should send copies to:

Prescription Bluegrass Media
3240 Simms Avenue
Kingman, AZ 86401-5363

European artists can send albums and one-sheets to:

Niall Toner, Presenter
Roots Freeway
RTE Radio One
Donnybrook, Dublin 4

Bluegrass fans can learn more about McNeal and Prescription Bluegrass on his website,, where you can also contact him for more information.

If you host a bluegrass radio show and would like to participate in our chart as a weekly reporter, please fill out this form and we’ll get right back to you.

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About the Author

John Curtis Goad

John Goad is a graduate of the East Tennessee State University Bluegrass, Old Time & Country Music program, with a Masters degree in both History and Appalachian Studies from ETSU.