WEST VIRGINIA’S TRADITIONAL COUNTRY MUSIC
Arcadia Publishing 9781467123112.
Softcover, b&w photos, 128 pp., $21.99.
The publisher of this book is probably better known for producing books for the history of locations such as towns. It’s a picture book format with brief notes about the subject, in this case musicians from West Virginia. There is a wide ranging net cast here, including the very first performers from that state to record, David Miller and Harry Tweedy, on up to the latest like Brad Paisley. In between is a who’s who of old-time, country, bluegrass, and gospel performers from all over the state. The restrictive format precludes including all of the great performers from West Virginia.
This is not a scholarly book, but it does present a good thumbnail history of country music in West Virginia. Starting in the early days, it progresses through the radio years, detours a little to present real folk musicians and bluegrass players, then goes on to present the modern performers from the Mountaineer State. The casual reader may be surprised to learn that Grandpa Jones got his start there. Such influential musicians as Frank Hutchison and Blind Alfred Reed are represented as well. Reece “Sam” Jarvis recorded a tune in 1929 that’s considered a classic today, “Poca River Blues.” Most folks are more familiar with the later recordings of it by Clark Kessinger, also featured here.
The bulk of the radio stars and later WWVA and Nashville stars are represented with promotional pictures, the more folk and bluegrass performers are caught in candid photos that reveal something more of their true selves. There are two pictures of a very young Connie Smith, in which she’s playing guitar. The real folk performers are well represented: Wilson Douglas, the Morris Brothers, David and John, Kim Johnson, Andy Boarman, Dwight Diller, Frank George, and John Johnson. Oddly enough, Bobby Taylor is not featured, even though he’s a mover and shaker in the old-time music world. Senator Robert Byrd is, as are several bluegrass legends: the Lilly Brothers, the Goins Brothers (also as the Lonesome Pine Fiddlers), and Buddy Griffin, who also wrote the foreword to this book. This is a good introduction to the musicians of West Virginia aimed at the casual reader who would like to know a little more about the music from this fine state. RCB