There is more to West Virginia
than just coal mining. It has its own voice. A voice that go deep
into the soul, tell stories from a hard life, beginning with the
music the Appalachian people brought with them into the heart of the
mountains. The music grew from folk music, bluegrass, that lead to
rockabilly, country music and even the classics. Witness opera
singers from West Virginia like Eleanor Steber from Wheeling and
Elisabeth Baer from Charleston. Connie Smith, Brad Paisley,
Hawkshaw Hawkins, Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper, and dozens of other
musicians who call the Mountain State home are honored in West
Virginia's Music Hall of Fame. For some singers the road has led
from rags to riches. For many the music grew out of the coal mining
Hasil Adkins, the youngest of
10 children of a coal miner, was born April 29, 1937 in Boone
County, West Virginia in a rented tarpaper shack owned by a local
coal company. He didn't receive his first pair of shoes until he
was four or five years old. He attended school for a very brief
time, as few as two days of first grade. Food was scarce and plain.
Perhaps that accounts for the fact that so many of his songs relate
to food particularly meat. While Hasil sang about food and sex,
other West Virginia singers used their talent to help the miners and
|Cultural Center where Hazel Dickins
would have performed.
The band prerforming is Taylor Made
Hazel Jane Dickens sang many of
her songs to help the non-unionized mineworkers. Born June 1, 1935
in Mercer County, West Virginia, came from a large mining family.
She was the eighth of eleven children and understood the hard life
of the mine workers. Dickens was one of the first women to record a
bluegrass album and was the first woman to receive the Merit Award
from the International Bluegrass Music Association in 1994. In 2001
she was presented with a National Heritage Fellowship by the
National Endowment for the Arts. Her Working Girl Blues shows a
Dickens spent her life and used
her music to support the people and environment of West Virginia.
She made an appearance in the movie Matewan, about the Coal Wars.
She passed away in April, 2011 just weeks before she. was scheduled
to perform at Charleston, West Virginia Cultural Center on June 5,
2011 at a fundraiser in support of fighting mountain top removal.
The event went on as scheduled but instead as a special tribute to
The Cultrual Center
is located just across from the State Capital Building and also
houses a great museum of West Virginia's history from
prehistoric to present day. Be sure to visit both when you go.
Some families are
just born to sing. Witness Taylor Made, a band composed of three
siblings from Taylor County, West Virginia, Wendy Williams, Greg
Duckworth and Brian Duckworth. The group sings their own brand
of harmonic country that they perfected singing on their back
porch since they were kids. They entered and won the Colgate
Country Showdown in 2005. It's been uphill ever since. They have
been nominated by New Music Weekly (NMW) for Country Group of
the Year. The group was nominated for and won Best New Country
Group of the Year by NMW last year,
Their music is real
West Virginia music. Greg explained, "We’re not singing songs
that someone else lived. We’ve lived the stuff we’re singing;
they’re heartfelt and personal experiences to us. When we sing
about being a country boy or being from Appalachia, we mean it.”
One of the most famous West
Virginia musicians is James Cecil Dickens better known as Little
Jimmy Dickens. Although he stands only 4'11” in his glamorous
rhinestone-studded outfits, he became a giant in the music industry.
He was born in Bolt, West Virginia on December 19, 1920 and by the
late 1930s began his music career. It carried him to the height of
Country Music fame when In 1948 Roy Acuff helped him to a
Columbia Recording contract and a place on the Grand Ole Opry. He
was the first country music entertainer to go around the world on a
world tour in 1964 His highest honor was being elected to the County
Music Hall of Fame. At the age of 90, Dickens became the oldest
living member of the Grand Ole Opry. He is still performing.
|Landau Eugene Murphy Jr. does things
"My Way" for
Travel South tour operators and journalists
in Charleston, WV
Kathy Mattea is another famous
West Virginia music voice. She was born in South Charleston, West
Virginia. She has gone to the top of the charts with songs like
"Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses" and "Where've You Been." She was
awarded Top Female vocalist of the Year twice.
It's not just Country Music,
West Virginia produces many variety of talent. For example, Landau
Eugene Murphy Jr. whose style is jazz. Frank Sinatra was a singer
Landau has always admired so he now covers many of Ol' blue Eyes'
songs.. He was born August 11, 1974, in Logan, West Virginia, the
son of a coal miner. By the age of 19 he was homeless and sleeping
in his car, He finally got a job working as a car washer and took a
chance to audition for America's Got Talent. Murphy was the winner
of the show on September 14, 2011. Since that day he has came a long
way from a West Virginia car washer. He now performs all over the
world but still returns to his home town of Logan for performances.
|Chase Likens and Kayla Sloan on
rehearsal at the Coalfield Jamboree
Another example of the power of
TV talent shows is Chase Likens, Chase is from Point Pleasant, West
Virginia and started singing at 5 years old at an elementary school
talent show. Chase was on American Idol season 10 and 11 and made
it to the semi-finals. His smoldering good looks and rich voice
could not be overlooked. Jennifer Lopez said. “You’ve got the movie
star good looks for sure, but you sounded great tonight, as well.
Tonight is about showing America who you are, and you definitely did
that with that song. I look forward to seeing where you go."
Chase is definitely going
places. He performed with Eric Paislay at the Coalfield Jamboree and
recently completed The Young Country Tour with Kyla Slone. On Nov.
4, 2013, he announced, "I'm happy to announce my latest signing
today with SAG-AFTRA affiliated talent agency DS Entertainment out
|Kayla Sloan sings during a rehearsal at the Coalfield
Kayla Slone, the wife of a Logan coal
miner, is yet one more example of how fast things happen in this
highly technical world of TV reality shows and the power of the
social media. Just a short time ago Kyla was a Logan County, West
Virginia Wal-Mart cashier, and her husband is a coal miner. She
really enjoyed singing for her customers while they stood in the
checkout line. One customer asked if he could record her singing.
The video was placed on YouTube and within less than a week she
Kayla was at that time just 21 years old and has been
invited to sing Loretta Lynn’s famous song Coal Miners Daughterr"on
the Grand Ole Opry stage. She appeared on Anderson Cooper. She was
invited by Dirks Bentley to appear with him in Las Vegas. All this
happened within a week and a half. Talk about whirlwind success!!Kayla recently opened for Eric Paislay at the Coalfield Jamboree. Kayla recently opened for Eric Paislay at the Coalfield Jamboree.
The Coalfield Jamboee is a great place to visit when you go to
Logan. If you're lucky enough to catch a preformance by Kayla
and Chase, and they sing a duet of "If I Were A Carpenter" close
your eyes for a monent and let the magic transport you. When you
open them you might expect to see a young Johnny Cash and June
Carter Cash before you on stage performing the haunting ballad.
Yes, Kyla and Chase are that good.
Logan, WV is also home to
22-year-old country music singer Kaitlin Boytek. Kaitlin is also
married to a coal miner.(There are lots of coal miners and
apparantly lots of singers in Logan) Kaitlin entered the Magnolia Festival in
Matewan at the age of four. She sang Sea of Cowboy Hats and won
first place and the quest was on. Her present aim is a recording
contract but she is not just sitting around waiting. She is busy
singing her heart out while she waits. She has opened at Coalfield
Jamboree in Logan for Eric Paislay at the Coalfield Jamboree in
Logan, West Virginia.. Her EP Album Wishing is available on ITunes.
Kaitlin is currently ranked the #1 up-and-coming country artist in
the state of WV by reverbnation.com.
All four of the newbie singers,
Kyla Slone, Kaitlin Boytek, Landau Eugene Murphy Jr. and Chase
Likens, have performed at Logan's Newest old theater, The Coalfield
The theater was the Logan 'Theater that originally opened
1938. In the heyday of the movie era it was the place to go. Like
many movie houses, it fell into disrepair. Just recently it was
renovated by a non-profit organization and now operates as a live
theater, music venue and community event venue. It seats 1,300 and
has wonderful acoustics.
Since reopening the Coalfield
Jamboree had hosted Billy Ray Cyrus, George Jones, Merle Haggard, J.
D. Summers, The Platters, The Drifters, Ricky Skaggs, the Glen
Miller Orchestra and others. This was the first place other than his
church that Landau Eugene Murphy Jr. sang.
Other small towns around
the state are revamping historic theaters to bring back live
performances, of both music and plays. One example is the historic
Fayette Theater. President and Artistic Director
Gene Worthington explained that the old building was in terrible
need of repairs and in danger of being torn down when the Fayette
County Historical Society started the theater project in 1992.
Gene and his wife, Karen
Vuranch, who performs one-woman plays about life in the coal fields
and historic Vest Virginia women, are passionate about the theater
and have worked hard to bring it back again as a performing venue.
Since those days the theater had made a magnificent comeback. Built
in 1937, the Fayette Theater is one of the few Depression era
movie houses still in use in southern WV. The theater remained in
use until the 1960’s. The original movie projectors are still on
display inside along with many paintings and pieces of art that
depict life and entertainment from the 1930’s era. The theater
stages ten performances per year along with special nights by
request. They offer performances as varied as Wild Rumpus, a local
Bluegrass band, and The Rockin' Tale of Snow White, a hip
musical version of the old fairy tale.
Gene and Karen
do a perfomance with local musicians called "Appalachian
Stories and Music" that can be booked for groups at a variety of
venues. In 1994, they had the honor to perform at the Ellipse
Theater at the White House.
As you see by the list of
singers-and that list just scratches the surface-all types of music
is part of West Virginia culture.
|Entertainment for Travel South
at the Walker Theater.
Performers are Bob Thompson
and Shala L (AKA Bricktop)
Charleston opened the Clay
Center for the Arts and Sciences in July 2003 as the new home of the
West Virginia Symphony Orchestra well as Avampato Discovery Museum
which combines an art museum and a hands on science museum
including the Electricsky Theater which functions as a planetarium
and a giant screen theater.
For the performing arts, Clay Center
houses The Maier Foundation Performance Hall, an 1,883-seat theater
and The Walker Theater, an intimate black-box small theater which
can accommodate between 150 - 200 people.
Of course when you
visit the Clay Center you will want to visit the art and science
sections as well as catch a performance at one or both of the
So we'll just have to say when
it comes to music, West Virginia rocks.
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