Watch Mountain play a thunderous version of Mississippi Queen in 1970 for an audience of schoolkids

Mountain in the studio of The Show
(Image credit: WITF-TV)

WITF-TV is a public television station located in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Founded in 1964, it broadcasts a range of educational and cultural programming alongside news and public affairs shows. Sounds dull, right?

Wrong. Back in 1970, WITF launched The Show, and 25 high school kids from the South Central Pennsylvania region were picked each week to attend the filming, which took place at the station's studios at a community centre on Hershey's Chocolate Avenue. Ostensibly, they were to discuss current events with various distinguished guests. Still sounds dull? Well, here's the good bit. 

Their attendance was encouraged by including notable bands and folk singers on the running order. And nearly 50 different artists appeared over the course of The Show's 26-week run. including Grand Funk Railroad, Vanilla Fudge, John Mayall, Amboy Dukes, Taj Mahal, Kenny Rogers, Tim Buckley and Iron Butterfly. 

If we had to pick a highlight, it might be Mountain performing the classic Mississippi Queen, from a show broadcast on March 29, 1970. The show had been filmed the previous month, with host Bob Walsh also introducing musician and educator Donal Leace, humorist Al Capp, and improv group Sweet Beginnings. And Mountain? The show finds the band at their most unrestrained. 

Drummer Corky Laing flails his arms as if he's punishing his kit for some unforgivable sin, or auditioning to replace Animal in Dr Teeth and the Electric Mayhem. Leslie West conjures up improbable levels of fuzz from his guitar while bellowing his way through the song, his voice stretching ever-closer to breaking point as the climax nears. And Felix Pappalardi wields his bass as if it's a flamethrower. Only keyboardist Steve Knight remains unmoved, performing with an air of bemusement that's completely at odds with the tumult around him. 

It is glorious. And the watching kids have no idea how lucky they are. 

Legend has it that Mountain also performed Theme From An Imaginary Western on the show, but that footage remains elusive. But everything shows up at some point, and we're sure it's only a matter of time before it emerges. We can wait. 

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.