From a no-frills basement on Tree Street, Joe Anderson is introducing the world to the Mummers, one feathered-and-sequined arrangement at a time.
Nearly every evening at 7, Anderson skooches up to his laptop and fires up Mum Radio, an Internet station devoted to the oddball folk tradition now stitched into hundreds of thousands of hearts.
Especially Anderson’s. He and his girlfriend moved to a corner of South Philadelphia – “Mum Town” – just to be closer to it all.
“Once it’s in your blood, it’s there. It’s part of you, it never leaves,” said Anderson before a recent broadcast.
Anderson does take some calls during the hourlong show, and, on occasion, has special guests. But the station is mostly about the music, the thing that initially hooked Anderson, a DJ and saxophone player. His song catalog now eclipses 200,000 with some tunes dating back to the 1960s.
“Happy music, that’s really what it is,” said Anderson. “Anytime you see a string band walk by and play, it puts a smile on people’s face.”
That’s part of the goal with Mum Radio: spreading some joy. Another is to be an ambassador for Mummer history. And still another is to create a space that sounds the positive notes of the tradition.
Anderson, 38, said some people give the Mummers a bad rap.
“How Mummers aren’t neighborly friendly and how Mummers are about themselves and they never give back. But the truth of it all is, the Mummers give back more than anyone that I’ve ever been involved with,” he said.
Anderson got his first taste of the Mummers when he was 10 – a Fourth of July appearance in Delaware County, where he grew up.
He was hooked, later joining the Greater Overbrook String Band, a group he stayed a part of even while living in Daytona Beach, Florida. Anderson would fly back and forth for practices and, of course, the big parade on New Year’s Day.
Two decades later, Anderson is still at it. He now plays saxophone with the Avalon String Band.
“When you get involved in these organizations and you’ve been with them so long, it does become part of your family,” said Anderson.
With Mum Radio, Anderson wants to give listeners those same feelings when they’re listening and taking in the tradition at home with their loved ones.
“You know, get people away from reading their books or playing their video games and take that hour of time and do what Mummers do, have a good time and strut and love the music at the same time,” he said.