The Rutherford Report—Mountain Couple's Show Gains Listeners

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Mountain Couple's Show Gaining Listeners

A variety show based at the storied Tudor House in Lake Arrowhead is attracting radio listeners across the country.

American Parlor Songbook began in 2012 as a 30-minute podcast produced by acclaimed composer JP Houston and his wife, comedian/actress Julie Van Dusen. At the time, the pair were living in Joshua Tree and recording their show in a hotel lounge in Palm Springs.

JP said he and Julie created the show because they wanted a venue where they could combine their talents to entertain people.

“After a few months, people started telling us the show was a good fit for NPR (National Public Radio), so we started looking around for a home radio station to make this a broadcast show,” he said.

KVCR in San Bernardino picked up the program, and JP and Julie moved to Crestline after discovering the Tudor House, a former speakeasy that had recently re-opened as an entertainment venue. The historic location was the perfect spot for their show, which features musical acts, comedians, skits by JP and Julie, audience games and more.

After doing a season of half-hour shows, the couple expanded the show to an hour and made the show available for syndication on PRX—an online marketplace for public radio programs. Today, the show can be heard on five public radio stations in Southern California as well as stations in Alaska, Illinois, Missouri and Florida.

“We have been meeting with program directors from throughout the country,” JP said. “I think we are on track to add a few more stations this season.”

American Parlor Songbook features JP on piano performing original songs with lyrics often sprinkled with current events. He and his wife share funny stories, and they’ve also developed recurring characters their audiences have come to love.

Fictional characters Martha and Windell—a very, very old married couple that performed in Hollywood many moons ago—close out all of the program’s shows with their witty banter and whimsical voices. JP and Julie began developing the characters several years ago after discovering them while joking around one evening before bed.

“The characters have a story arch over the years, and we’ve been slowly filling in the details,” JP said.

While American Parlor Songbook is based at the Tudor House, JP and Julie also take their act on the road and record some shows in the studio.

JP said the live shows offer a bit more than the edited one-hour versions that radio listeners get. The live shows typically last about an hour and a half and include more music and comedy routines than the radio version.

JP and Julie also play games with the audience. In one, JP plays background music from a movie and sings made-up lyrics that give clues about the movie the song is from. Audience members guess the tune to win prizes.

Radio listeners also don’t get the full experience of visiting the historic Tudor House.

“It’s a really beautiful, cool thing,” JP said. “Everyone is always eager to tell you the secret backstory.”

According to mountain lore, mobster Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel operated a casino and speakeasy at the stately home where an underground tunnel led guests to a brothel across the street.

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