Born in Bolt, Raleigh County, in 1925, Little Jimmy Dickens became a permanent member of the Grand Ole Opry in 1949. Prior to that, in the late 1930s, Dickens was a member of WV’s first “supergroup” – which included future WVMHoF members Johnnie Bailes and Molly O’Day. Signed to Columbia Records, he charted hits in every decade from the ’40s to the ’70s. Dubbed “The King of the Novelty Song,” Dickens’ tunes included “Take an Old Cold Tater and Wait,” “Out Behind the Barn,” and the Top 10 “May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose.” He also recorded many rockabilly and gospel sides and pioneered the use of twin guitar leads that would later become a signature of Nashville country music. In 1964, Dickens became the first country artist to tour around the world. Thanks to the support of fellow West Virginian Brad Paisley (and his project The Kung-Pao Buckaroos), Dickens’s music has reached a new generation of listeners. In 2007, Dickens was in the first class of inductees into the WVMHoF.
A personal note on the passing of Little Jimmy Dickens by fellow Hall of Fame Inductee Tim O’Brien: “Jimmy Dickens was a renowned entertainer and he was also one of us. Four feet eleven inches of bottled lightning, he brought down home music from his home state of West Virgnia to the rest of this country and to the world. He supported the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame from its earliest days, and the hall proudly included him in its first class of inductees in 2007.”
Grammy winning American artist Tim O’Brien launched his new download label Short Order Sessions on January 6th. Available on all digital music outlets including iTunes and Amazon, the label’s debut release is “Brush My Teeth With Coca-Cola,” a humorous look at the Freedom Industries chemical spill one year ago that contaminated the water supply of 300,000 West Virginia residents.
Proceeds from “Brush My Teeth With Coca-Cola” will benefit West Virginia environmental organization AWARE (www.awarewv.org).
Starting in February, Short Order Sessions will release new singles on the first and third Tuesdays of each month (shortordersessions.com). O’Brien is well known to Folk, Bluegrass, and Americana fans for his hybrid of acoustic roots music and original songs. His current release with Hot Rize, When I’m Free, is currently climbing the bluegrass charts. Born in Wheeling, WV, the current Nashville resident says the initial release is timely.
“Last year’s chemical spill in the Charleston area woke many of us to the fragile nature of the environment. My song is one of many written in the wake of the tragedy. There’s no easy fix, but one year later, it’s more important than ever to remain vigilant and to hold industry accountable. We take tap water for granted, so imagine 300,000 people suddenly scrambling for enough water to cook and bathe with, a whole community stressed and afraid. The guy in my song wonders what to do, hoping to catch rain in a bucket. Meanwhile he brushes his teeth with what’s handy.”
O’Brien says he hopes to develop a new record label model with Short Order Sessions. “I’ve seen LPs, then cassettes, now CDs, come and go. The traditional album set of 10 or more songs is less viable, so is the record store that sells them. Single song releases and downloads have taken over, so Short Order Sessions is my quiet, folky way of staying current. I’m excited to record and release one-off songs with various friends, to keep new ideas flowing.”
“Brush My Teeth With Coca-Cola” features Kathy Mattea on background vocals. Both West Virginia natives have already made musical stands on coal and the environment, Mattea with her CD Coal and O’Brien with last year’s Grammy nominated song “Keep Your Dirty Lights On” in collaboration with Darrel Scott.
West Virginia boy Brad Paisley took to the stage Saturday, March 1, 2014 in Charleston. But before the big show, Paisley was honored by the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame along with the Governor’s Office with the highest honor a West Virginian can receive, the Distinguished West Virginian Award.
When asked how it felt to return to his home state, Paisley said, “It’s not until you come back that all the memories flood your mind. When you come back up this way, it’s a different kind of world.”
He also said it made him extremely proud that West Virginia had a Music Hall of Fame.
Following the award presentation, Paisley took to the stage at the Charleston Civic Center to a packed house.
Last fall, five fifth graders from Martinsburg chose the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame as their project to compete in the statewide Social Studies fair. Luxious Burleson, Jackie Kelly, Rhea Ming, Victoria Riley, and Brandon Richie – all students at Eagle School Intermediate in Martinsburg – worked with teacher Debbie Myers to develop a display and a presentation.
Competing in the Division I category for State and Local History, the students’ project included photos of WVMHoF inductees and a clay recreation of the WVMHoF award.
After winning first place in their school (with a score of 98), the students went on to win the county and district competition. On Friday, April 26, the group’s project was selected as the first place winner out of entries from all other RESA districts in the state.
While in Charleston, the students met up with WV Music Hall of Fame director Michael Lipton and staffers Jeff Shirley, Sherry Hobbs, and Ted Harrison to tour the WVMHoF’s Traveling Museum.
“I’ve never had a group of kids who knew so much about West Virginia music,” said Harrson, who has worked with the Traveling Museum for four years. “They not only knew the musicians’ names but something about their careers.”
Meyers, who has had group projects compete at the state level in past years, said the topic was special to her personally.
“I was so happy that the students chose the WV Music Hall of Fame, because I am a native West Virginian and I come from a musical family. As they explored the Hall of Fame’s website, they were amazed at the variety of talent that has come out of West Virginia.
“I was happy that they got to see the Traveling Museum and use the interactive map because they had included information about them in their report. It added a whole new dimension to their learning experience.”
One student, Luxious Burleson, said, “It was an extraordinary experience.” Another, Rhea Ming, said, “It was a great experience – I wouldn't trade it for the world.”
Jack Rollins, a native of Keyser, Mineral County – and a 2011 WV Music Hall of Fame inductee – is one of the quintessential “unsung heroes” of the music business. While few know him by name, it’s not an exaggeration to say that everyone – young and old – is familiar with at least one of his songs.
Rollins’ best known compositions – “Peter Cottontail” and “Frosty the Snowman” – are two of America’s most popular children’s holiday songs.
Rollins was inducted into the WV Music Hall of Fame in 2011, along with Kathy Mattea, Connie Smith, Billy Cox, Tommy Thompson, Diamond Teeth Mary, and Butch Miles. A DVD of the event is available on the Shop page.
Rollins was born in Keyser, Mineral County, in 1906. As a young boy, he cared for his mother who was blinded by glaucoma soon after she married. To support the family, she sold magazines on the street. Jack helped out with a newspaper route. At night, he sat by her side while she wrote down verses she had made up. Using those words, Jack wrote his first songs.
As a young man, Rollins worked at a glass plant in Pittsburgh. He then moved to Mount Vernon, New York, where he was hired on as a baggage handler at Penn Station. He wrote music on the side and sold his first song for five dollars. At age 40 he quit to pursue his dream of being a full time songwriter after getting an earful from an irate customer. Gradually, the money got better, but not before he was forced to sell off some of his family’s possessions.
In 1949, Rollins wrote the lyrics to the song “Peter Cottontail” with Steve Nelson writing the music. The song was originally recorded by Gene Autry with subsequent versions by Guy Lombardo, Roy Rogers, Dinah Shore and many others. It went on to sell more than a million copies.
The story of the familiar Easter song is a classic and, of course, involves a child. One morning, Nelson complained to Rollins that, in order to put his son to sleep he told him Peter Cottontail stories. Thinking the rabbit would make a good song, Rollins dashed off the lyrics in about six minutes. Nelson then added the music.
Rollins, who wrote about 500 songs in his career, also wrote “Smokey the Bear” in 1952. While the USDA Forest Service’s 1944 campaign featured a character named “Smokey Bear,” it was Rollins who added the “the” – as he was unable to fit “Smokey Bear” into the lyrics.
Rollins also co-wrote songs for country stars including George Jones and Eddy Arnold. His song “I Don’t Hurt Anymore” was a No. 1 hit for Hank Snow in 1953 and Johnny Cash recorded it on his last release, American VI: Ain’t No Grave.
More Peter Cottontail lore
If you’re Christmas shopping in downtown Charleston, take a break and visit the WV Music Hall of Fame’s exhibit in the Dickinson Street parking garage.
The display features instruments, photos, posters and vintage memorabilia from Mountain Stage musicians – with an emphasis on those from the Kanawha Valley.
Artists featured include Sen. Robert C. Byrd, George Crumb, Lefty Shaffer, Hugh McPherson, Bill Withers, Jeff Stevens, Wayne Moss, Charlie McCoy and many others.
In addition there are high school band uniforms, an old sign from Gorby’s Music, vintage record players, manuscripts and awards.
The parking garage is located on Quarrier Street between Dickinson and McFarland Streets. The building is open Monday-Friday, 6 a.m.-10 p.m.; Saturday, 6 a.m.-6 p.m.; and closed on Sundays.
For more information about the exhibit and the WV Music Hall of Fame, or to donate items to be exhibited, contact: 304-342-4412 or email@example.com.
The West Virginia Music Hall of Fame’s Traveling Museum, which is housed in a 28-foot trailer, recently visited Sissonville Middle School. Redhawk music students experienced a rich variety of West Virginia artifacts as shown in the photo above, in which Redhawk students are pictured with Robert C. Byrd’s fiddle. The exhibit showcases music that has come from the state’s musical heritage – from country, opera and jazz to gospel and rock ’n’ roll. Redhawk students enjoyed the sounds of Bluefield songwriters Bill Withers (“Some Kind of Wonderful”), Maceo Pinkard (the Harlem Globetrotters theme song “Sweet Georgia Brown”) and Kanawha County native Kathy Mattea’s autographed album and gown worn to the White House. In addition, selected music students were able to cut their own CD. The exhibit houses a recording studio which enabled students to record a song and leave with a finished CD.
On April 22, West Virginia – and the country – lost one of its most singular voices. A woman as strong as she was determined, Hazel Dickens embodied the spirit of the state, singing, speaking out and working for the people and ideals that formed the bedrock of our nation.
Hazel was inducted into the WV Music Hall of Fame in 2007. Alison Krauss, a longtime fan (and label mate) of Dickens was on hand to present her award. Hazel gave one of the most moving acceptance speeches of any inductee noting that with her induction, “I finally feel like my music has a home.”
Hazel’s lyrics were always brief, touching, and to the point. Her speech was no different. In addition to offering that heartfelt sentiment, it was a beacon to everyone involved with the WVMHoF that we were on the right track. No matter what our individual “mission,” Hazel’s spirit and persistence should inspire us all.
Her funeral service in Princeton concluded with a moving version of one of her most beloved songs (and the state’s unofficial theme song) “West Virginia, My Home.” A line of musicians including Ginny Hawker, John Lilly, Tracy Schwarz, Bill & Becky Kimmons, and Dudley Connell sang and played with Hazel’s casket behind them. It was a moment no one there will soon forget.
Born and raised in a mining community in Mercer County, Hazel Dickens’ songs champion women’s rights and the plight of non-unionized mineworkers. A prominent player in the folk/bluegrass movement in the Baltimore/D.C. area during the ’60s, she toured with Joan Baez and issued landmark recordings with Alice Gerrard. Her songs have been recorded by Dolly Parton and Johnny Cash, and have been used in films including the Academy Award-winning documentary “Harlan County, USA.” In 2001, she was presented with a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.
It’s taken a while, but Hasil Adkins’ 1976 Cadillac Fleetwood limo – dubbed the “Hunchin’ Wagon” – has “come home” to West Virginia.
While it may not be his most famous vehicle – the Boone County wildman immortalized his red Plymouth Satellite with spray painted polka dots in his song “Big Red Satellite” – it was the car that transported him to many gigs throughout the southeast during the last leg of his career.
Boone County’s Hasil Adkins was a self-styled musician who was known for playing as a “one-man band”: beating mercilessly on an acoustic guitar, playing drums and singing – all at the same time. His raw style was the inspiration for a genre of music that became known as “psychobilly.” Notable songs included “She Said,” “The Hunch,” “No More Hotdogs” and “Chicken Walk.”
Adkins was popular in Europe and none other than Miles Copeland, then owner of IRS Records (and brother to Police drummer Stewart Copeland) purchased his entire catalog in the mid-’90s.
One of the Hunchin’ Wagon’s last trips was to the Knoxville, TN, set of Asia Argento’s 2004 film “The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things” in which Hasil turned in a brief cameo as a street musician.
The film was based on the book “Sarah” by 19-year-old JT Leroy, supposedly an account of his disturbing childhood which involved becoming a transvestite and turning tricks in a West Virginia truck stop. Leroy’s story turned out to be a hoax and it was revealed that the author was in fact a 40-something woman and the story was fictitious.
After Hasil’s death in 2005, the car’s caretaker and Hasil’s onetime manager Jim Tucci phoned the WV Music Hall of Fame with the thought that the car’s resting place should be in Hasil’s home of West Virginia.
The car made the trip back to WV on the back of a car hauler, thanks to donations from a number of Hasil fans including Senator Ron Stollings; Sam Hall, Farmer, Cline & Campbell; DL Hamilton; Tom Smith; and Larry Barsh.
The WVMHoF received a major grant from the WV Humanities Council to produce a four-part documentary series titled “A Film History of West Virginia Music.” Each 15-minute segment will focus on a different geographic area of the state and will include interviews with numerous notable musicians.
The WVMHoF also received a grant from the Greater Kanawha Valley Foundtion to fund visits of its Traveling Museum to 36 schools in an 18-county area during the 2010-2011 school year. The counties to be visited include: Putnam, Kanawha, Clay, Boone, Logan, Wayne, Cabell, Mason, Lincoln, Mingo, McDowell, Mercer, Wyoming, Raleigh, Summers, Monroe, Fayette, and Greenbrier.
The Hall of Fame’s successful Traveling Exhibit is a collaboration with the WV Department of Education and has visited schools in more than 40 counties to date.
Both of these organization have been strong supporters of the WV Music Hall of Fame in the past.
For more information, contact the WV Music Hall of Fame at 304-342-4412 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
|Hall of Fame induction ceremony broadcast live on WV Public TV|
|The night was filled with tributes, music and memories - and acknowledgments from the inductees and their families of the role that West Virginia played in their musical development.
Charleston native Robert Drasnin, a former 20-year Music Director for CBS Television who is currently teaching film scoring at UCLA, paid homage to that influence by performing a “tiki-styled” arrangement of “West Virginia, It’s You” with an ensemble that included vibes and bongos.
Jazz/blues singer Katherine Russell was on hand to belt out Maceo Pinkard’s standard “Them There Eyes” and Ann Baker’s signature “Ice Man Blues.” The Whites traveled from Nashville to present Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper’s award to the couple’s daughter Carol Lee Cooper - and then sing one of their best known tracks, “Big Wheel.
Other memorable moments included a video clip of Phyllis Curtin who was unable to attend in person, a performance of Frankie Yankovic’s hit “Just Because” by his nephew (and former bandmate) accordionist Bob Kravos. The night closed with a finale of the 1956 Red Sovine/Webb Pierce hit “Why Baby Why.”
The West Virginia Music Hall of Fame released its second CD - the Nichols Family’s “A Cry From the Mountains” - in conjunction with the November 6, induction ceremony.
The Nichols Family - Marshalene Nichols and her daughters Lisa Spalding and Rita Estep - sing pure, unadulterated mountain gospel. With their voices blending as only family members can, their a capella harmonies capture the essence of West Virginia in all its beauty, sadness and earthiness. The Nichols Family sang an invocation at the first induction ceremony in 2007. The CD is dedicated to Marshalene Nichols who passed in August, 2008. The majority of these songs were recorded by Don Dixon at the Nichols’ church in Brownsville, Fayette County, in January, 2005.
The CD is available through HoF’s website and at Taylor Books in downtown Charleston.
The WV Music HoF’s hanging exhibit “The Art of WV Music,” now includes nearly 100 items ranging from an Edison cylinder of one of Maceo Pinkard’s compositions and George Crumb manuscripts to Sen. Byrd’s prized fiddle and Red Sovine’s 1948 Gibson J200 and “Nudie” suit. Musicians as diverse as psychobilly pioneer Hasil Adkins, old time banjo master Aunt Jennie Wilson, and opera singer Eleanor Steber are represented with stage clothes, LPs, 78s, posters, photographs and paintings.
The exhibit has been installed in Charleston, Parkersburg, Lewisburg and at the Augusta Heritage Festival in Elkins.
The exhibit is currently at the Landes Arts Center in Petersburg. Next, it will travel to Berkeley Springs for a February 13 opening, to the Wheeling Artisan Center for a March 26 opening, and to the new Chuck Mathena Center in Princeton in May. In the summer, it will be installed at the Masuras Gallery at the Creative Arts Center in Morgantown.
At each opening, the HoF provides staff or scholars to meet the public and discuss the collection as well as the HoF’s various projects.
“The Art of WV Music” was created with funds and support from the West Virginia Humanities Council. If you are interested in contributing items to the HoF’s collection, please contact us at 304/342-4412 or email email@example.com.