Short Life of Trouble ~ Music, Lyrics, and the Joy of Sad Music

By Wayne Erbsen

This is an excerpt from Rural Roots of Bluegrass.

A while back I was invited to bring an instrument to a potluck party of some friends of mine in the mountains near Asheville, North Carolina. I brought along my fiddle in the hopes of finding some bluegrass musicians to jam with.

When I arrived at the converted barn where the party was being held, I saw a guitar learning up against the corner, so I sidled up to the guitar’s owner and introduced myself. As I shook howdy with him I asked him what kind of music

Read the rest

“West Virginia, My Home” A Visit With Hazel Dickens Interview by John Lilly

hazelSongwriter and performer Hazel Dickens is among the most respected and celebrated folk or country music artists to come from West Virginia. She has recorded 11 albums, contributed to the soundtracks of nine feature films or videos – including such popular releases as Matewan and Songcatcher – and seen her songs recorded by artists such as Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash, New Riders of the Purple Sage, Hot Rize, and others. Among the many honors and awards she has received is the prestigious National Heritage Fellowship, presented to her by the National Endowment for the Arts in 2001.

Born in 1935

Read the rest

Hank Williams’ Lost Charleston Show By John Lilly

When he left his Alabama home on December 30, 1952, Hank Williams had his sights set on West Virginia. He was billed as the headline act for a gala “Western Style Revue” at Charleston’s Municipal Auditorium and was scheduled to perform two shows here on New Year’s Eve night. Sadly, he never arrived.

Little has been written about this Charleston engagement. Most authors, researchers, and fans have shifted their attention instead to Canton, Ohio, where Hank was expected to perform the following day. On January 1, 1953, in Canton, the first public announcement was made about the passing of this

Read the rest

“Keep a-Goin’” Musician Everett Lilly of Clear Creek, West Virginia by John Lilly. Photograph by Michael Keller

everett_lilly_089pBorn in 1924, musician Everett Lilly has been going strong for nearly 85 years, living just a stone’s throw from the Clear Creek property where he was born. A casual observer might not realize that Everett, together with his late brother “B,” traveled the world over, performing and promoting the music of his Raleigh County home.

The Lilly Brothers, playing with neighbor Don Stover, introduced countless new fans to the down-home music of southern West Virginia at the peak of their popularity during the mid- to late 1960’s. Singing tight, “brother” harmonies and playing at a breakneck tempo on guitar,

Read the rest

Playlist for December 16, 2012

December 16, 2012

Bonepart’s Retreat (Erynn Marshall)

Icy Mountain

Lonesome Road Blues

Boys, My Money’s All Gone.

Ain’t Gonna Rain No More (Fred Price, and Clint Howard)

Ain’t No use in Your High Hattin’ Me

East Bound Train

Surely I Will

Tough Luck

I’ve Gota Mule to Ride (Ralph Stanley)

Bound to Ride

Black-Eyed Susie

Waves on the Sea (Big Medicine)

Brushy Run

Texas Gales/Blackberry Blossom

Little Girl Dressed in Blue (Bill Clifton)

Sales Tax on the Women

Hobo Bill’s Last Ride

Methodist Pie

Hell Amongst the Yearlings (Adam Hurt)

Love of the Mountains (Blue and Lonesome)

Shine Hallelujah Shine

Read the rest

“We Always Tried to Be Good People”: Respectability, Crazy Water Crystals, and Hillbilly Music on the Air, 1933-1935 by Pamela Grundy

If you are easily exhausted, or too nervous, you have headaches or backaches or can’t sleep as you should, if your complexion is sallow or your tongue coated; maybe you’re just being warned by Nature that the troubles with far more serious names may be on the way. Faulty elimination, the sluggish and delayed passage of waste throughout the system, causes many serious disorders, disorders with all kinds of names…. Don’t give up to pain and illness…. Why all you need is determination, ordinary drinking water, and Crazy Water Crystals. Won’t you try it? -Crazy Water Crystals radio advertisement.


Read the rest

Blind Alfred Reed

Henry Reed with Fred Pendleton

The Blind Man’s Song  – Recalling Alfred Reed By John Lilly

Young Violet Reed climbed a tall tree near her family’s home in Summers County and watched the road. She was looking for her father, Blind Alfred Reed, to return from Hinton, where he would go most days with his fiddle to play and sing on a street corner, a tin cup by his side. She could see him coming from a distance, walking down the road, fiddle tucked under one arm. Sometimes, if the day went well, he’d have a pound of bacon in his hand. Or, if the

Read the rest

Okeh Record’s Historic Session in Asheville by Kent Priestly

Click on the image above to view a slideshow by Kent PriestleThe guitarist, Henry Whitter, slid his chair across the floor to bring his instrument a little closer to the recording machine’s sound-gathering horn. A harmonica dangled from his neck on a wire truss; he made a tentative puff on it and looked over to the man behind the controls.

The guitarist, Henry Whitter, slid his chair across the floor to bring his instrument a little closer to the recording machine’s sound-gathering horn. A harmonica dangled from his neck on a wire truss; he made a tentative puff on it

Read the rest

Appalachian Tradition Music, A Short History by Debby McClatchy

MOST Europeans consider the Appalachians to be mountains of the southeastern region of the United States, but in truth they encompass eighteen states, reaching from Maine to Georgia, and include, among others, the Berkshires of Connecticut, the Green Mountains of New Hampshire, the Catskills of New York, the Blue Ridge of Virginia, and the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. Southern Appalachia includes three hundred counties covering most of West Virginia and parts of Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Maryland, North and South Carolina, and Virginia, an area called today the Southern Highlands or Upland South, or, in Colonial times, the ‘Back Country’.

Read the rest