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West Virginia

Considered the southern most northern state and the northern most southern state

State Spotlight

West Virginia

Became a state on..... June 20, 1863

Southern Genres..... Folk, Country, Blues, Bluegrass, Gospel, Spirituals, Hillbilly, Jazz, R&B, Native American, Pop, Southern Rock, Rock & Roll, Mountain Music, Southern Hip-Hop, Hardcore Punk, Heavy Metal.

West Virginia's folk heritage is a part of the Appalachian folk music tradition, and includes styles of fiddling, ballad singing, and other styles that draw on Ulster-Scots music. West Virginia consists of a mostly rural region, although its few relatively urban centers are prominent spots of musical innovation. The Capitol Music Hall, in Wheeling, is the oldest performing place of its kind in the state, and has hosted a wide variety of acts, from national tours to the local Wheeling Symphony Orchestra.

Mountaineers Are Always Free

"Almost Heaven"

West Virginia is a state located in the Appalachian region of the Southern United States. It is bordered by Virginia to the southeast, Kentucky to the southwest, Ohio to the northwest, Pennsylvania to the north (and, slightly, east), and Maryland to the northeast. West Virginia is the 41st largest by area, the 38th most populous, and has the second lowest household income of the 50 United States. The capital and largest city is Charleston.

West Virginia became a state following the Wheeling Conventions of 1861, in which delegates from some Unionist counties of northwestern Virginia decided to break away from Virginia during the American Civil War, although they included many secessionist counties in the new state. West Virginia was admitted to the Union on June 20, 1863, and was a key Civil War border state. West Virginia was the only state to form by separating from a Confederate state, the first to separate from any state since Maine separated from Massachusetts, and was one of two states formed during the American Civil War (the other being Nevada).

The state is noted for its mountains and rolling hills, its historically significant logging and coal mining industries, and its political and labor history. It is one of the most densely karstic areas in the world, making it a choice area for recreational caving and scientific research. The karst lands contribute to much of the state's cool trout waters. It is also known for a wide range of outdoor recreational opportunities, including skiing, whitewater rafting, fishing, hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, and hunting.

Music of West Virginia

"West Virginia’s Three State Songs"

It is unusual for a state to have more than one official song. West Virginia has three. At least three people — including an 11-year old boy — had creative voices in writing the first song more than 100 years ago. A military officer wrote the second after distinguished service in World War II. And a Charleston jazz musician began composing the third while she was asleep in the early 1960's.

The West Virginia Hills,” with words by Ellen Ruddell King and music and chorus by Henry Everett Engle, was completed in 1885 in Gilmer County.

West Virginia, My Home Sweet Home” appeared in 1947 and was composed by Col. Julian G. Hearne, Jr., a Wheeling native, attorney, and career military officer.

The third song, “This Is My West Virginia,” was written by Charleston musician and performer Iris Bell in 1962.

Each of these three songs had received an official designation from the State Legislature over the years. “West Virginia, My Home Sweet Home” was declared the first official state song in 1947. In 1961, an edited and approved version of “The West Virginia Hills” was also made an official state song. In 1962, “This Is My West Virginia” was named the official Centennial Song of West Virginia. Understandably, this resulted in considerable confusion.

To resolve the matter, all three songs were declared official and equal by House Concurrent Resolution No. 19, adopted by the State Legislature on February 28, 1963. The Secretary of State’s office is guardian of the official versions.

Though they are melodic and heartfelt, Hearne’s and Bell’s works have not been performed often. Long before it was declared official, however, “The West Virginia Hills” was used on many public occasions. And for nearly four generations — in those days when people more often gathered to sing for pleasure — the old anthem proved a favorite. It has sweep and majesty and thunder, especially its inspired chorus, which singers divide into a call and echoed reply, singing, “Oh the hills (beautiful hills), Beautiful hills (beautiful hills), How I love those West Virginia hills!” The three songs represent early, middle, and modern eras of the state’s history. And here’s how each came to be.

Appalachian Folk Music Tradition

Folk Heritage

West Virginia's folk heritage is a part of the Appalachian folk music tradition, and includes styles of fiddling, ballad singing, and other styles that draw on Ulster-Scots music.

West Virginia consists of a mostly rural region, although its few relatively urban centers are prominent spots of musical innovation. The Capitol Music Hall, in Wheeling, is the oldest performing place of its kind in the state, and has hosted a wide variety of acts, from national tours to the local Wheeling Symphony Orchestra.

Other music institutions in West Virginia include the Mountaineer Opera House in Milton. The West Virginia Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1939, as the Charleston Civic Orchestra, before becoming the Charleston Symphony Orchestra in 1943. The first conductor was William R. Wiant, followed by the prominent conductor Antonio Modarelli, of the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra.

West Virginia's historical contributions to musical development include WWVA Jamboree, a radio show that began in 1933 and soon became a very prominent regional show, based out of the Capitol Music Hall in Wheeling. WWVA, the radio station that has long broadcast WWVA Jamboree, hosts the Jamboree in the Hills every July in St. Clairsville, Ohio, just across the border from Wheeling.

The town of Oak Hill was the site of country legend Hank Williams' death, which is commemorated by a plaque in front of the public library in Oak Hill.

Appalachian Music

West Virginia's folk heritage is a part of the Appalachian folk music tradition, and includes styles of fiddling, ballad singing, and other styles that draw on Scots-Irish music. Camp Washington-Carver, a Mountain Cultural Arts Center located at Clifftop in Fayette County, hosts an annual Appalachian String Band Festival. The Capitol Complex in Charleston hosts The Vandalia Gathering, where traditional Appalachian musicians compete in contests and play in impromptu jam sessions and evening concerts over the course of the weekend. The Augusta Heritage Center sponsored by Davis & Elkins College in Elkins in Randolph County produces the annual Augusta Heritage Festival, which includes intensive week-long workshops in the summer that help preserve Appalachian heritage and traditions.

Classical music

The West Virginia Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1939, as the Charleston Civic Orchestra, before becoming the Charleston Symphony Orchestra in 1943. The first conductor was William R. Wiant, followed by the conductor Antonio Modarelli, who was written about in the November 7, 1949 Time Magazine for his composition of the River Saga, a six-section program piece about the Kanawha River according to the Charleston Gazette's November 6, 1999 photo essay, "Snapshots of the 20th Century". Before coming to Charleston, Modarelli had conducted the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra and the Philadelphia Orchestra, according to the orchestra's website.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning 20th-century composer George Crumb was born in Charleston and earned his bachelor's degree there before moving outside the state. There had also been a series of operatic style concerts performed in Wheeling during mid-century as well.

Musical innovation

The West Virginia Cultural Center in Charleston is home to the West Virginia Division of Culture and History, which helps underwrite and coordinate a large number of musical activities. The Center is also home to Mountain Stage, an internationally broadcast live-performance music radio program established in 1983 that is carried by many affiliates of National Public Radio. The program also travels to other venues in the state such as the West Virginia University Creative Arts Center in Morgantown.

The Center hosts concerts sponsored by the Friends of Old Time Music and Dance, which brings an assortment of acoustic roots music to West Virginians. The Center also hosts the West Virginia Dance Festival, which features classical and modern dance.

Huntington's historic Keith-Albee Theatre, built by brothers A.B. and S.J. Hyman, was originally opened to the public on May 7, 1928, and hosts a variety of performing arts and music attractions. The theatre was eventually gifted to Marshall University and is currently going through renovation to restore it to its original splendor.

Every summer Elkins hosts the Augusta Heritage Festival, which brings folk musicians from around the world. The town of Glenville has long been home to the annual West Virginia State Folk Festival.

John Denver's hit song "Take Me Home, Country Roads" describes the experience of driving through West Virginia. The song mentions the Shenandoah River and the Blue Ridge Mountains, both features traversing the easternmost extremity of the state's "eastern panhandle", in Jefferson County. On March 8, 2014, West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin signed House Concurrent Resolution 40 naming "Take Me Home, Country Roads" the fourth official state song of West Virginia.

Symphony Sunday is an annual event hosted by the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra held in June. It is a day full day of music by community groups, food, and family fun, culminating in a free performance by the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra with a fireworks display following. The event began in 1982 and is held on the front lawn of the University of Charleston.

The Daily Mail Kanawha County Majorette and Band Festival is West Virginia's longest running music festival. It is for the eight public high schools in Kanawha County. The festival began in 1947. It is held at the University of Charleston Stadium at Laidley Field in downtown Charleston.

Big Band Jazz in Black West Virginia

1930 - 1942

In the words of Christopher Wilkinson... West Virginia is arguably the most geographically muddled state in the Union.

Some Northerners think of the state as “the South.” I remember Chris Matthews referring to it off-handedly as a “Confederate” state several years ago in a “red state” election round-up.

Some Southerners think of it as “the North.” Again, that’s sort of fair considering the state seceded from Virginia to join the Union during the Civil War.

Either way, West Virginia sits firmly in the Appalachia region. The irony of that term—Appalachia—is that it comprises a few common-knowledge Southern states (Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, and the Carolinas), parts of three obvious Northern states (New York, Maryland, Pennsylvania), and one Midwestern state (Ohio).

So West Virginia belongs to the South and the North, but also to neither, and to all three of those Appalachian regions … and none of them. It’s a state with its own mythology and archetypes—coal mines, whitewater rafting and the Hatfields & McCoys being some prominent tropes.

Musically, the go-to archetype for the state is hillbilly music, folk, bluegrass, and country. In most pop-culture depictions of coal mining, that’s the music that accompanies men going down into the mines. And why not? Hillbilly tunes are beloved in the region, as chronicled by Ivan Tribe’s Mountaineer Jamboree. In the foreword of that book, the late Senator Robert C. Byrd wrote, “People often ask me, ‘What is folk music?’ ‘What is country music?’ ‘What is bluegrass?’ ‘What kind of music do you have in West Virginia?’ These are not easy questions to answer, and they will perhaps never be answered to everyone’s satisfaction.”

He’s right — West Virginia’s music is a muddle, too. The state has been home to Bill Withers, Hasil Adkins, Daniel Johnston, punk bands, Greg Dulli, countless fiddlers, jazz session men, rock session men, folk singers, nu-metal bands, and country stars. There’s no simple answer to Byrd’s final hypothetical. But Senator Byrd and author Tribe go on to primarily discuss the stereotypical hill music which Byrd himself knew well. (The man released a surprisingly great album of his own fiddle music while he was serving in the Senate.) So West Virginia music turns out to be a lot like the state’s placement in the country—several things, not any one thing.

So what about the black coal miners? Sure, hillbilly music informed James Brown and countless other Southern R&B, blues and soul singers weaned on country radio. (For a long list, read Barney Hoskyns’ country soul opus Say It One Time for the Broken Hearted.) But what did these Appalachian African-Americans listen to?

Again, it isn’t exactly North and not quite South, and that geographic gray area affected listening patterns. West Virginia counted thousands of black miners, especially in the 1930s and ‘40s, the era of the blues, medicine shows and most prominently for the national African-American community, jazz.

Like everyone else at the time, African-Americans listened to big band. So perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise that black West Virginians, both in the middle class and in the coal mines, heard big band jazz not only on the radio and in concert halls, but also in coal camps.

Naturally, that’s the subject at hand of Christopher Wilkinson’s exhaustively researched Big Band Jazz in Black West Virginia, 1930-1942. The book depicts West Virginia’s relationship with big band, showing the state as an unlikely—and oddly ideal — environment for hosting big band jazz during those 12 Great Depression/WWII years.

When coal started to become a big business, giving the local economy a bump, more and more African-Americans moved to Appalachia for work. Mining, after all, paid better than agriculture and even factory jobs in cities. What’s more, in West Virginia black men could vote and get equal pay for equal work in the mines. The miners sent their kids to school, creating a black middle class of teachers and local business owners. For about 12 years in the 20th century, West Virginia became, more or less, a great place to live for black families. And coal money went into the pockets of big band legends.

Most notably, Joe “King” Oliver, the mentor of Louis Armstrong, set up headquarters in Huntington for about a year between 1934 and 1935. To learn why, author Wilkinson looked at booking records. He found that musicians earned the best money in West Virginia—because of the aforementioned equal pay, black families had extra money to spend on dances. Other parts of the country didn’t generate the same kind of earnings. Oliver could jump from coal town to coal town and make money all along the way. The majority of the shows Oliver played that year took place in West Virginia, with a few in Ashland, Kentucky (directly across the Ohio River from Huntington, W.V.). Clearly, West Virginia held an eager audience for big band.

I was born and raised in Huntington, and believe me, this came as a surprise — I’ve long harbored an interest in music history, and I knew nothing of all this.

When it came to my hometown’s history, I knew a few things growing up. Huntington is home to Marshall University. It’s a port town, and even though it’s in the coal state, you’d have to travel a while to hit a proper mine. Still, I knew of no local music history to speak of … unless, again, you’re talking about the state’s hootenanny lineage.

Even so, I wasn’t surrounded by jug band jam sessions (though that would’ve been awesome). In high school, the only concerts in town came courtesy of Journey, ZZ Top, Staind, and a handful of other acts of similar quality and aesthetic. (The best local show I saw around that time was a Blue Oyster Cult show in Charleston.)

I moved to Chicago, despite my West Virginia pride, for two (in my mind) equally big reasons: College and Concerts. (From Huntington, the closest concerts of interest most often happened three hours away in Ohio.) It came as an enormous revelation, then, that Oliver, one of the founding fathers of jazz, held a residency in my hometown months before he died. And that didn’t just surprise me—none of my audiophile friends in Huntington knew about Oliver’s residence either. That’s probably the greatest gift of Wilkinson’s book—he offers a largely untold West Virginia music history for music nerds like me.

It’s easy to see why the subject had never been explored prior to Wilkinson’s book. Big band and West Virginia just don’t aesthetically fit together. Big bands and big cities? An obvious fit—YouTube videos of horn players in tuxedos performing for aristocrats makes that clear. Big bands in the South? Again, it makes sense—in the simplified origin story of the genre, jazz’s forefathers migrated from New Orleans and the Deep South to Chicago, New York, Paris and beyond. But jazz jumped in the Mountain State, too, and Wilkinson does an excellent job at proving its little-discussed presence.

Wilkinson looks at census records, old newspapers, gig books, personal interviews, and countless other resources to fully understand where the music played, who made up the audience, who played, what was played, and so on. As a researcher, he’s spot-on—he only settles for inferences when he’s exhausted every possible coal seam of research. He also teases out the economy of coal in the ‘30s, specifically noting that Executive Order No. 6137, “Code of Fair Competition for the Bituminous Coal Industry,” stabilized the industry, an essential bit of information in understanding how big band music could possibly thrive in the state. That said, Wilkinson may also sometimes throw in too much context: “The formation of West Virginia’s coal deposits began in the Pennsylvanian or Upper Carboniferous Period around 323 million years ago.”

This tends to be how Wilkinson works as a writer. In discussing how miners and West Virginians could’ve heard big band music, he finds several sources that discuss the locations of radio stations, how radio was distributed throughout the state and what music stations played. Then, just when Wilkinson has made his point with adequate proof, he too often gives even more proof. So the information tends to drag on a bit long, a testament to Wilkinson’s excitement at finding a gig book or a relevant article in The Pittsburgh Courier. At its heart, this book turns out to be an educational study, which is entirely appropriate—Wilkinson teaches music history, specifically jazz history and bibliography methods, at West Virginia University. Here, both in content and approach, is Wilkinson’s craft in a nutshell.

The author’s greatest triumph as a researcher and writer comes when he directly correlates the coal industry to the success of big band in the state. Coal money proved a major factor for why Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway and nearly every other big band legend of the time traveled through Appalachia. But Wilkinson also uses research to prove that coal turned out to also be the downfall of big band in West Virginia. As in the John Henry legend, the early ‘40s saw machines replace some of the miners. The first to be fired? African-Americans.

Wilkinson verifies this heartbreaking story with statistics and anecdotal evidence—families had to leave their homes and find work in factories or farms for far less money. In some cases, it turned out to be much less dangerous work, but without black miner families, the black middle class dissipated. Within a few short years, big band lost a large chunk of its audience in West Virginia. World War II added the burden of rationed goods and services, which meant that if a band’s bus tire stripped, it couldn’t get a new one. Metal rationing made the purchase of new instruments largely out of the question. Limited gasoline took extensive tours off the table. Many big bands, as Wilkinson puts it, “went out of business.” It’s a sad ending, but the way Wilkinson connects the dots is impressive.

Personally, knowing that big band greats gigged around my home state fascinates me on its own. But I’m even more grateful for a chapter on West Virginia’s local big bands. We have no way today to hear those bands or know what they sounded like. An example? Gilmore’s Midnighters, a big band from Piedmont that Wilkinson describes from old interviews. He recounts where the band played (high school gymnasiums and American Legion halls), for whom it played (segregated crowds) and, most importantly, what Gilmore’s Midnighters played (“Ain’t Misbehavin’” and “Nagasaki” appear on the play list).

Wilkinson writes in the middle of this volume a sentence that could be his book’s thesis statement: “Indeed the image of a rural, agricultural (and almost entirely white) world shapes many peoples’ perceptions of West Virginia’s musical culture to this day.”

While that’s obviously true, as made evident by Senator Byrd’s foreword, Wilkinson didn’t pore over his subject to only say, “Hey, there’s more to West Virginia than hillbilly music.” He tells a story untold for the last seven decades—of a sophisticated, predominately black music that invaded the hills despite its historical association with the cities. Wilkinson approaches his subject with footnotes, charts, and graphs, but amid all the visual aides and parenthetical citations, he plays us an amazing history.

West Virginia Notable Musicians & Industry Pioneers

Hasil Adkins

Boone County, WV - Was an American singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. His genres include rock and roll, country, blues and more commonly rockabilly, and because of his unusual playing and singing style, he is often cited as an example of outsider music.

Cuba Austin

Charleston, West Virginia - Austin first enters the record as a member of William McKinney's group, McKinney's Cotton Pickers. Austin was an influential figure in early jazz; Gene Krupa called Austin one of his major influences. Austin was one of the first drummers to use the newly invented hi hat in hot and swing jazz.

Leon "Chu" Berry

Wheeling, West Virginia - An American swing tenor saxophonist. His name continues to loom large in the annals of jazz. Had he lived, there is no doubt that he would be ensconced in the jazz pantheon alongside Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young. He was that good.

Andrew Forrest "Andy" Boarman

Berkeley County, WV - Banjo and autoharp player who lived his entire life in the apple orchard country of West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle. Best known for his unusual and intricate finger-style banjo playing, Andy also was a fine autoharp player, instrument builder, and instrument repairman.

Chris Booker

New Martinsville, WV - A TV/radio personality and a podcaster. He has worked as a correspondent for TV Guide Channel covering red carpet events such as "Live at the Grammys with Joan and Melissa Rivers," and "Live at the Kids Choice Awards." Booker was a full-time VJ for MTV and MTV2, hosting such shows with Britney Spears.

The Lilly Brothers

Clear Creek, West Virginia - The Lilly Brothers, (Bea Lilly, born Michael Burt Lilly, December 15, 1921 – September 18, 2005 and brother Everett Lilly, born July 1, 1924 - May 8, 2012) were bluegrass musicians who have been credited with influencing such future bluegrass artists as Peter Rowan, Joe Val and Bill Keith, among others.

Joe Cerisano

Fairmont, WV - His commercial work in television and radio singing includes spots for Coca-Cola, Chrysler/Plymouth, General Electric, Miller Beer, the United States Army, the United States Navy and numerous others. During this period, Cerisano also did backing vocals on several albums by Michael Bolton.

Larry Combs

South Charleston, WV - One of the world's leading orchestral clarinetists, is active in chamber music, and plays on the busy Chicago jazz scene. Won two Grammy Awards for Best Chamber Music Performance. He began to play clarinet in Charleston at the age of ten and by the time he was thirteen had a strong enough technique and reputation that he was regularly asked by the Charleston Symphony.

Wilma Lee Cooper

Valley Head, WV - Leary sang with her family's gospel music group, The Leary Family, recording for the Library Of Congress in 1938. Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper had remarkable record success in the late 1950s and early 1960s on Hickory Records given both their bluegrass sound (which has rarely been as commercially successful).

Stoney Cooper

Harman, Randolph County, WV - Known professionally as Stoney Cooper, was an American country star and member of the Grand Ole Opry. His family was among the first settlers of Randolph and Pendleton counties, and these roots in the Appalachian mountains had an impact upon his music. He was a master of the fiddle and the guitar recording for Rich-R-Tone, Hickory Records and Decca.

William Jennings "Billy" Cox

Charleston, WV - Ranked as one of West Virginia’s premier country music vocalists and songwriters during the 1930s. Cox learned to play guitar and harmonica in his youth and became known as the ‘‘Dixie Songbird,’’ recorded versions of traditional British ballads, as well. A reckless lifestyle prevented Cox from realizing much benefit from his skills. He died in poverty.

Billy Cox

Wheeling, WV - American bassist, best known for performing with Jimi Hendrix. Cox is the only surviving member of Jimi Hendrix's three main bands, including the original Experience lineup (which did not include Cox); he was in the Band of Gypsys and afterwards the Cry Of Love (a.k.a. Jimi Hendrix New Experience) trio. Cox was also in the short-lived Hendrix band Gypsy Sun and Rainbows (there are other surviving members from this group) which played Woodstock.

George Crumb

Charleston, WV - American composer of avant-garde music. He is noted as an explorer of unusual timbres, alternative forms of notation, and extended instrumental and vocal techniques. Crumb has been the recipient of a number of awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 1968 for his orchestral work Echoes of Time and the River and a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Composition in 2000 for his work Star-Child.

Little Jimmy Dickens

Bolt, WV - better known as Little Jimmy Dickens, was an American country music singer famous for his humorous novelty songs, and his rhinestone-studded outfits (which he is given credit for introducing into country music live performances). He started as a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 1948 and became a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1983.

Hazel Dickens

Mercer County, WV - A bluegrass singer, songwriter, double bassist and guitarist. Her music was characterized not only by her high, lonesome singing style, but also by her provocative pro-union, feminist songs. Dickens didn’t just sing the anthems of labor, she lived them and her place on many a picket line, staring down gunfire and goon squads, as a clarion-voiced advocate for coal miners and working people and a pioneer among women in bluegrass music." With Alice Gerrard, Dickens was one of the first women to record a bluegrass album.

Brad Divens

Charleston, WV - Rock musician, bassist and lead vocalist for Souls at Zero, formerly known as Wrathchild America. His vocal style often draws comparisons to James Hetfield (Metallica). Previously, Brad played guitar with the Maryland band Kix on their Cool Kids album. He has since worked as Front of House's sound engineer for acts such as Linkin Park, Cyndi Lauper, Slayer, Garbage, HIM, Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band, Motley Crue, Jane's Addiction, and most recently Enrique Iglesias.

Russel Fluharty

Marion County - , "The Dulcimer Man," was born in 1906. Adept at playing several instruments including the mountain dulcimer, Russell became a champion of the hammered dulcimer and is often given credit for popularizing this ancient and beautiful instrument in West Virginia. Russell was a tireless supporter of local history and folk culture, and he promoted-and performed- traditional music at every opportunity. Russell Fluharty passed away in 1989.

Mind Garage

Morgantown, WV - Mind Garage was an American psychedelic rock and roll band from Morgantown, West Virginia, and a progenitor of Christian rock music. Their "Electric Liturgy" performed in 1968 was the first documented Christian rock worship service, and their 1969 eponymous debut RCA album was one of the earliest Christian rock albums released.

Randy Gilkey

Oak Hill, West Virginia - Singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer and recording engineer, Gilkey lost his eyesight shortly after birth when too much oxygen was pumped into an incubator, where both of his retinas became detached. Gilkey began playing piano aged two. He tours, records and performs with his band "The Boatmen". Gilkey's instrumentation can be found on albums by artists such as The Drifters and Maurice Williams and The Zodiacs. Randy has played on stage with artists such as Chuck Berry and David Holt and has appeared on NPR's Mountain Stage several times.

James Edward "Ed" Haley

Trace Fork of Harts Creek in Logan County, WV - A blind professional American musician & composer best known for his fiddle playing. Ed Haley was one of the best known fiddlers in his region of Appalachia traveling widely throughout West Virginia, Ohio, eastern Kentucky and southwestern Virginia. He had a huge repertoire of old-time music that included breakdowns, jigs, waltzes and show tunes, which he performed at square dances, fairs, street corners, fiddle contests and courthouse squares.

The Hammons Family

Pocahontas County, WV - A family musical tradition of fiddle and banjo playing as well as ballad singing and storytelling. Best known of the family musicians was fiddler Edden Hammons (1887–1952), who is often cited as having been one of West Virginia’s finest fiddlers. Fifty-four of Edden’s tunes were recorded in 1947. The Library of Congress published a comprehensive oral and documentary history of the Hammons family in 1973.

Harold Franklin Hawkins

Huntington, WV - Better known as Hawkshaw Hawkins, was an American country music singer popular from the 1950s into the early 1960s known for his rich, smooth vocals and music drawn from blues, boogie and honky tonk. He traded five trapped rabbits for his first guitar, and performed on WCMI-AM in Ashland, Kentucky. At 16, he won a talent competition and a job on WSAZ-AM in Huntington, where he formed Hawkshaw and Sherlock with Clarence Jack.

Blind Joe Hill

Dunbar, WV - blues singer, guitarist, harmonica player and drummer. As a one-man band he played in the styles of Joe Hill Louis and Doctor Ross. He used his craggy vocals supported by guitar, bass, and drums, and was one of the last practitioners of the one-man blues band tradition. Hill recorded two albums under his own name on the Barrelhouse and L+R labels, and was part of the 1985 American Folk Blues Festival touring Europe.

Frank Hutchison

Logan County, WV - Country blues and Piedmont blues musician and songwriter. Hutchison was best known as a slide guitar player, where he held the guitar in his lap. He is considered to be the first white rural guitarist to record the blues. He worked as a coal miner at various coal mines in Logan County, Hutchison is considered to be one of the finest performers of the "white country blues" genre of early folk music.

Johnnie Johnson

Fairmont, WV - A pianist who played jazz, blues and rock and roll. His work with Chuck Berry led to his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He began playing the piano in 1928. He joined the United States Marine Corps during World War II and became a member of Bobby Troup's all-serviceman jazz orchestra, the Barracudas.

Daniel Johnston

New Comberland, WV - Singer-songwriter, musician, and artist. Johnston was the subject of the 2005 documentary The Devil and Daniel Johnston. He has been regarded as an important figure in outsider, lo-fi and alternative music scenes.

Orlando Wright (better known as Musa Kaleem)

Wheeling, WV - Jazz saxophonist and flautist Wright bought a clarinet in 1937, and by 1939 was touring as a saxophonist with the El Rodgers Mystics of Rhythm, featuring Eddie Jefferson on lead vocals. He played with Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Jimmie Lunceford, and the Savoy Sultans in the late 1940s.

Kathy Mattea

South Charleston, WV - Country music and bluegrass performer who often brings folk, Celtic, and traditional country sounds to her music. Active since 1983 as a recording artist, she has recorded seventeen albums and has charted more than thirty singles on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks charts. This total includes the number one hits "Goin' Gone", "Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses", "Come From the Heart", and "Burnin' Old Memories", as well as twelve additional Top Ten singles.

Charlie McCoy

Oak Hill, WV - A musician noted for his work on a wide variety of instruments. In his career, McCoy has backed several notable musicians including Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Tom Astor, Elvis Presley, Chet Atkins and Ween. He has also recorded thirty-seven studio albums, including fourteen for Monument Records. Thirteen of his singles have entered the Billboard country charts. He was a member of Area Code 615 and Barefoot Jerry.

Tex McGuire

Monroe County, WV - Tex McGuire left his home in Gap Mills, West Virginia at age 14 and went on the road for 51 years, traveling the vaudeville circuit. Tex got the job of playing and singing 15 minutes each day for three dollars. He was a member of the Del Rio Cowboys, a hillbilly singing group named after the Texas town where he once performed. The group broke up because of World War II, two members were killed in the war. Tex also had played with Bob Wills in the 1930s and 1940s.

Garnet Mimms

Ashland, WV - Singer, influential in soul music and rhythm & blues. He first achieved success as the lead singer of Garnet Mimms & The Enchanters, and is best known for the 1963 hit "Cry Baby", later recorded by Janis Joplin. According to Steve Huey at AllMusic, his "pleading, gospel-derived intensity made him one of the earliest true soul singers & his legacy remains criminally underappreciated."

Landau Eugene Murphy, Jr.

Logan County, WV - He received national attention for winning the sixth season of the NBC reality show America's Got Talent. Murphy had been homeless at age 19, sleeping in his car. He worked as a car washer during the months leading up to his TV performances, and was nearly destitute as a result of his home having been robbed. He was down to his last pair of pants and jacket when he arrived to sing at his America's Got Talent audition.

Tim O'Brien

Wheeling, WV - Grammy-winner country and bluegrass musician. In addition to singing, he plays guitar, fiddle, mandolin, banjo, bouzouki and mandocello. He has released more than ten studio albums, in addition to charting a duet with Kathy Mattea entitled "The Battle Hymn of Love", a No. 9 hit on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks (now Hot Country Songs) charts in 1990. In November 2013 he was inducted into the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame.

Mollie O'Brien

Wheeling, WV - Bluegrass, R&B, and folk singer who released a number of Americana albums with her brother, Grammy-winner Tim O'Brien. She contributed vocals to the Grammy-winning album True Life Blues: The Songs of Bill Monroe. She is known for her interpretations of classic songs by artists such as Tom Waits, Memphis Minnie, Willie Dixon, Chuck Berry, Si Kahn, Terence Trent D'Arby, and Kate MacLeod.

radley Douglas "Brad" Paisley

Glen Dale, WV - Country music singer and songwriter who won three Grammy Awards, 14 Academy of Country Music Awards, 14 Country Music Association Awards, and two American Music Awards. He has earned country music's crowning achievement, becoming a member of the Grand Ole Opry. Starting with his 1999 debut album, Who Needs Pictures, he has released 10 studio albums and a Christmas compilation on the Arista Nashville label, with all of his albums certified Gold or higher by the RIAA. He has scored 32 top 10 singles on the U.S. Billboard Country Airplay chart, 19 of which have reached #1. He set a new record in 2009 for most consecutive singles (ten) reaching the top spot on that chart. Paisley has sold over 12 million albums.

Squire Enos Parsons, Jr.

Newton, WV - Southern Gospel singer and songwriter. He was introduced to music by his father, who was a choir director and deacon at Newton Baptist Church. Squire's father taught him to sing using shaped notes. He joined the Kingsmen Quartet as a baritone in 1975 and toured with them for four years before embarking on a solo career.

Rachel Proctor

Charleston, WV - Country music artist. Before signing to a record deal, she co-wrote Martina McBride's 2002 single "Where Would You Be". By 2003, Proctor had signed to BNA Records, releasing her debut single "Days Like This" that year. This song, which peaked at number 24 on the country charts, was the first of four singles from her 2004 debut album Where I Belong. Proctor's only album for the label, it also produced her highest-charting single in the number 18 "Me and Emily".

Professor Jam (a.k.a. William P. Rader)

Wheeling, WV - (Founding Executive Board member of the Southern Museum of Music) Disc Jockey, producer, promoter, CPS pioneer, the new Digital DJ revolution. Manufacturers joined with computer DJing pioneers to offer professional endorsements, the first being Professor Jam (a.k.a. William P. Rader), who went on to develop the industry's first dedicated computer DJ convention and learning program, the "CPS (Computerized Performance System) DJ Summit", to help spread the word about the advantages of this emerging technology.

Don Redman

Piedmont, Mineral County, WV - Jazz musician, arranger, bandleader and composer. He was named a member of the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame on May 6, 2009. His father was a music teacher, his mother was a singer. Don began playing the trumpet at the age of three, joined his first band at the age of six and by the age of 12 was proficient on all wind instruments ranging from trumpet to oboe as well as piano.

Walter E. "Jack" Rollins

Keyser, West Virginia - Musician who along with Steve Nelson, co-wrote "Here Comes Peter Cottontail," used in the Easter special of the same name, in 1949, and "Frosty the Snowman" in 1950. Jack Rollins also wrote "Smokey the Bear" for the public-service mascot Smokey Bear, and co-wrote many country songs for artists such as Gene Autry, Hank Snow, George Jones and Eddy Arnold.

Frank "Poncho" Sampedro

Welch, WV - Guitarist and member of the rock band Crazy Horse, known mainly for his longtime collaboration with singer-songwriter Neil Young. Born in a mining camp Sampedro started playing guitar at age 11. “I saw this kid from my neighborhood walking down the street holding a guitar. I said, “Where’d you get that?” He said, “I’m taking lessons…if you take lessons with me, we get a cheaper price…We only have to pay a buck-sixty-five and they give you the guitars.” “I’m in!” That’s how it all started and it’s never stopped since. Sampedro joined Neil Young and Crazy Horse in 1975 to record Zuma. With the addition of Sampedro on rhythm guitar, Crazy Horse developed a new, bashing, hard-rock sound (as opposed to the more free-form approach of the Whitten era) that served as a seminal influence in the development of grunge and noise rock while also enabling Neil Young to focus more on his lead playing.

Jim Savarino

Wheeling, WV - Musician and singer-songwriter he is known for writing contemporary songs that draw from his Appalachian roots, nature and the human condition, often with a humorous point of view. His music connects with environmental groups such as the Sierra Club. His Fast Folk recordings are now being maintained by Smithsonian Folkways Recordings.

Art Simmons

Glen White, WV - jazz pianist who played in a band while serving in the U.S. military in 1946. Simmons led his own group at the Ringside Club in 1951. In the early 1950s he played with Dizzy Gillespie and Quincy Jones, and toured London with singers such as Bertice Reading. As resident pianist at the Mars Club, he worked with Michel Gaudry, Pierre Cullaz, and Elek Bacsik, and accompanied touring singers such as Carmen McRae and Billie Holiday (1958). In the early 1960s he played in a duo with Art Taylor.

Michael W. Smith
, contemporary Christian singer-songwriter, guitarist, and keyboardist

Kenovia, WV - Contemporary Christian singer-songwriter, guitarist, and keyboardist, who has charted in both contemporary Christian and mainstream charts. Smith is a three-time Grammy Award winner, an American Music Award recipient, and has earned 45 Dove Awards. In 1999, ASCAP awarded him with the "Golden Note" Award for lifetime achievement in songwriting, and in 2014 they honored him as the "cornerstone of Christian music" for his significant influence on the genre. He also has recorded 31 No. 1 Hit songs, fourteen gold albums, and five platinum albums. He has also starred in 2 films and published 13 books including This is Your Time, which he worked with Christian author Gary Thomas to write.

Red Sovine

Charleston, WV - Country music singer and songwriter associated with truck driving songs, particularly those recited as narratives but set to music. The most famous examples are his 1965 number #1 hit "Giddyup Go" and his 1976 number one hit "Teddy Bear" He was taught to play guitar by his mother. His first venture into music was with his childhood friend Johnnie Bailes, with whom he performed as "Smiley and Red, the Singing Sailors" in the country music revue Jim Pike's Carolina Tar Heels on WWVA-AM in Wheeling, West Virginia.

Johnny Staats

Parkersburg, WV - Bluegrass mandolin, guitar and violin player he grew up in a musical family in and got his first mandolin at age seven. By the age of nine, he was in his first band, and in his teens he began appearing at local competitions. He has been featured on NBC's Today Show, in People Magazine, on the CBS Evening News and CNN, and has appeared on the Grand Ole Opry. He won Charleston's Vandalia Gathering-Mandolin championships in 1996, 1997, and 1999. In 1997 he also won the guitar title and placed third in the fiddle competition. He is an avid raccoon hunter. His Johnny Staats Bluegrass Festival is a part of the Parkersburg (W.Va.) homecoming every year. He supports local instrument makers by playing ones made in the Parkersburg area.

Eleanor Steber

Wheeling, WV - Operatic soprano. Steber is noted as one of the first major opera stars to have achieved the highest success with training and a career based in the United States. She made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera in 1940 and was one of its leading artists through 1961. She was known for her large, flexible silvery voice, particularly in the high-lying soprano roles of Richard Strauss. She was equally well known for her lyrical portrayals of Mozart's heroines, many in collaboration with conductor Bruno Walter. Beyond Mozart and Strauss her repertoire was quite varied.

Steve Whiteman

Piedmont, WV - Rock singer, best known for being the lead singer of Kix. Whiteman first started his career in a Led Zeppelin cover band and joined Kix in 1978 when they were known as "The Shooze". The group has released seven studio albums and one live album with Whiteman on vocals. Whiteman later went on to form Funny Money with Billy Andrews that same year and the group has put out four studio albums since its founding. In 2003, the members of Kix, sans Purnell, got back together with Mark Schenker (Originally from Centerfold) on bass, and has since put out the album Rock Your Face Off in 2014.

The Williamson Brothers

Logan County, WV - Arnold and Ervin Williamson (better known as The Williamson Brothers) were folk musicians active in the 1920s and 30s. Arnold played the fiddle while Ervin played the guitar and did vocals. The duo recorded several songs for Okeh Records in the late 1920s, and remained musically active in subsequent decades, although they rarely recorded. Their version of "Gonna Die With a Hammer in My Hand" (a song about John Henry the steel driver) has been reported as being the most popular version ever recorded. Musically, they were closely related to other folk musicians based in Logan County in the 1920s such as Frank Hutchison and Dick Justice.

Garland Wilson
Martinsburg, WV - Jazz pianist, perhaps best known for his work with Nina Mae McKinney. Wilson was a boogie-woogie and stride pianist. In 1932 the pianist joined Nina Mae McKinney on a European tour. Wilson had also done extensive work in England with various groups, and did some recordings with Nat Gonella. In the liner notes of the CD box l'intégrale Django reinhardt - vol 2 he is quoted as being accompanist of French singer Jean Sablon together with guitarist Django Reinhardt on two sides recorded on November 1, 1935 in Paris. In 1939 he returned to the United States, where he remained until 1951, when he moved to Paris, France. The artist remained there until he died in 1954.

Melvin Wine

Burnsville, WV - Fiddler, his father, Bob Wine, played the fiddle, and his mother, Elizabeth Sandy Wine, sang ballads and hymns. Some of Melvin's earliest memories were of lying in bed at night, listening to his father's fiddling. "Some of those tunes he'd play at night would just touch me," he said. "I don't know why. One of them, 'Lady's Waist Ribbon,' used to make me cry. There was just something about it that bothered and overjoyed me." Acclaimed as one of the most versatile of fiddlers, Wine is also renowned for his deft bow work and the immensity of his repertoire, including the varied melodies and tunes of his youth, many of which date back more than 200 years to the earliest Appalachian settlers.

Bill Withers

Slab Fork, WV - Singer-songwriter & musician who performed and recorded from 1970 until 1985. He recorded several major hits, including "Lean on Me", "Ain't No Sunshine", "Use Me", "Just the Two of Us", "Lovely Day", and "Grandma's Hands". Withers won three Grammy Awards and was nominated for four more. His life was the subject of the 2009 documentary film Still Bill. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015. He was born with a stutter and has said he had a hard time fitting in. Raised in nearby Beckley. Withers enlisted with the United States Navy at the age of 18 and served for nine years, during which time he got over his stutter and became interested in singing and writing songs.

Bobby Wright

Charleston, WV - Country music singer, guitarist and vocalist. The youngest child and the only son of country singers Johnnie Wright and Kitty Wells, since his parents were regular performers on the country music television program Louisiana Hayride. At age eight, Wright appeared with his parents on the show, and became part of their recordings three years later. The family went back to Nashville in 1958, because his parents became headliners at the Grand Ole Opry. Although Wright was an able guitarist and vocalist, he had little interest in a music career. He became interested in acting when he learned that Peter Tewksbury, a television and film director, had a role for a young Southern boy who could play the guitar. Wright made the trip to Hollywood to test for Tewksbury. While he did not get the role he went to California for, his screen test was seen by the producer of McHale's Navy, who cast him in the new television comedy as Willy Moss, the PT-73 radio operator, a role he played through the entire series. While McHale's Navy was still in production, Wright decided to give music a try, beginning by working with his mother on one of her 1965 albums. Unhappy with the Hollywood scene after McHale's Navy ended, he moved back to Nashville to start a music career.

Frankie Yankovic

Davis, West Virginia – A Grammy Award-winning polka musician. Known as "America's Polka King," Yankovic was considered the premier artist to play in the Slovenian style during his long career. Born to Slovene immigrant parents. He released over 200 recordings in his career. In 1986 he was awarded the first ever Grammy in the Best Polka Recording category. He rarely strayed from the Slovenian-style polka, but did record with country guitarist Chet Atkins and pop singer Don Everly. He also recorded a version of the “Too Fat Polka” with comedian Drew Carey