One of Princeton’s best-kept secrets is John Weingart’s WPRB show, “Music You Can’t Hear on the Radio,” which airs Sunday nights from 7 to 10 p.m. It’s an eclectic mix of folk, stringband, bluegrass, blues, with a shot of humor. Mark Hill, a member of the band Life’s Other Side, describes their music just like that — “It’s music you can’t hear on the radio,” he says. “It’s old country with four-part harmony.” The band gives a free concert on Thursday, June 25, at 7 p.m., at Nassau Presbyterian Church, Thursday, June 25. “We’ll have a guest, Jeremy Steele of Princeton, who plays the pedal steel guitar. The sound is very distinctive in country western music. Also, a guest drummer, John Strauss.”
While Hill has a decidedly mainstream day job — he is director of leasing at Hilton Realty — the other four band members are all Presbyterian ministers. Three are retired: Wallace Alston, now living in Maine, was a pastor of Nassau Presbyterian for 22 years, then director of the Institute for Theological Inquiry; John Wiley Nelson, now living in Provincetown, lived in Princeton in the early 1980s, was pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Trenton for 19 years, and was one of the founders of the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen (he came up with the acronym TASK). Don Mackenzie, who now lives in Seattle, attended Princeton Theological Seminary. The fourth minister, John McClure, is chair of the graduate department of religion at Vanderbilt School of Divinity, and earned his Ph.D. from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1984.
The band formed in the early ’80s, when all the band members were working or studying in the Princeton area. They recorded a soundtrack for a documentary, “Family Name” (1996), and performed at the Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree at the Grand Ol’ Opry in Nashville (2005). They played together for more than a decade until they went their separate ways, but have gotten together over the years for concerts in Santa Fe, Utah, and Provincetown.
Hill, who is a member of the Sons of the American Revolution, comes from a family that dates back in the area to the late 1600s and first settled in Ringoes. In 1908, his great-grandfather had a 200-acre farm in Pennington, which he sold to start Hill’s Grocery, which remained at the corner of Witherspoon and Spring for 69 years until it burned down in 1977. “My great-grandfather, grandfather, dad, mom, and brother and I worked in the store,” says Hill, who attended Franklin Pierce University in New Hampshire and NYU.
So what brings them to Princeton? “I’m getting married the Saturday after the concert,” says Hill, whose fiancee is Beth Ann Tschaepe, a residential leasing agent in Mercer County. The couple resides in Hopewell. “I play with five bands in the area, including Stringzville, and all these musicians are coming to the wedding.” Needless to say, the nuptials will take place at Nassau Pres, where Hill is a member.
Life’s Other Side, Nassau Presbyterian Church, 61 Nassau Street (across from Palmer Square). Thursday, June 25, 7 to 8 p.m. Free concert of old country music with four-part harmony. 609-213-0940.