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Punk Music, Banjos, Legendary Hot Dog Maker And More Inside Appalachia

Russell Yann.jpg
Courtesy of Marion County Convention and Visitors Bureau
Russell Yann was the former owner of Yann’s hotdogs in Fairmont, West Virginia.

Lots of folks have picked up new hobbies, or renewed old ones, during the pandemic. Maybe you know someone who started knitting, or baking, or mountain biking. For some, those hobbies have a way of turning into passions that play out over years and sometimes decades.

In this episode of Inside Appalachia, we’re sharing stories about people with passions like poetry, music, or making hot dogs, and have touched others with their dedication to their craft.

In This Episode

Punk Music And Banjos

Courtesty of B Harris_2.jpg
Courtesy of Bradford Harris
Al Cornett sits in his Cumberland, Kentucky home, playing a banjo built by Bradford Harris. Cornett primarily made dulcimers, but also built other stringed instruments, such as banjos and mandolins.

In Harlan County, Kentucky, 20-year-old Bradford Harris plays in the punk band L.I.P.S. When in-person shows were canceled because of the pandemic, Bradford began playing the banjo. Eventually, this led to a surprising new talent -- making banjos. Bradford even tracked down a 97-year-old instrument maker to learn the craft.

To see some of Bradford’s banjos, search for Harris Banjo Works on Instagram. You can also find Bradford’s punk band L.I.P.S. on Bandcamp.

Poetry and Social Justice

Brett Weinstein

Poet Nikki Giovanni says there are many reasons she loves Appalachia, the region where she was born. An activist for civil rights and social justice, Giovanni has been helping give voice to Black Appalachians for half a century.

Reporter Liz McCormick spoke with Nikki Giovanni back in 2015 about her love for Appalachia, and about growing up in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Affrilachian Poet

Crystal Wilkinson grew up in Kentucky with her grandparents. She is one of the founding members of a group known as the Affrilachian poets. Wilkinson has a new book called “Perfect Black,” which is set to be released from the University of Kentucky Press in August.

We’ll listen back to a 2019 interview Wilkinson recorded for Inside Appalachia back in 2019 about her experiences growing up in Appalachia influenced some of the stories in her books.


Skiing In West Virginia

Skiing took off in West Virginia in the 1950s, when a ski area was developed on Cabin Mountain in Canaan Valley. Today there are six ski resorts.

John Lutz, a native of Parkersburg, was a huge part of developing the industry in the state. He’s been recognized as one of the country’s top ski instructors. He also developed one of the first blind skiing programs, brought a professional ski-racing series to West Virginia and created opportunities for thousands of people to ski in our region. He left West Virginia for a while, but as he told Inside Appalachia co-host Caitlin Tan, he found himself missing home.

Old Man Winter-- Helvetia’s Annual Fasnacht Festival

Traveling 219

Like most festivals and events, the annual Fasnacht celebration in Helvetia, West Virginia was canceled this year due to safety concerns from COVID-19. Normally, on the Saturday before Lent begins, hundreds of people gather in this tiny town to frighten away Old Man Winter.

We listen back to a story about the annual Fasnacht Festival from back in 2014, when Inside Appalachia producer Roxy Todd was a fledgling radio reporter.

Friends And Family Remember Russell Yann

Russell Yann.jpg
Courtesy of Marion County Convention and Visitors Bureau
Russell Yann was the former owner of Yann’s hotdogs in Fairmont, West Virginia.

If you live in West Virginia and care about food, you probably know DiCarlo’s in Wheeling, where they serve pizzas topped with cold cheese. Maybe you’ve been to Richwood, a town that claims to be the ramp capital of the world. And you probably know that, when it comes to hotdogs joints, Yann’s Hotdogs in Fairmont is on a level all its own.

Russell Yann, the longtime owner of the iconic lunch spot, died on Jan. 15. Reporter Zack Harold spoke with Yann’s friends and family, and closes this episode with a remembrance of Yann’s life and legacy.

Our theme music is by Matt Jackfert. Other music this week was provided by Dinosaur Burps, Bradford Harris, L.I. P. S, and Anna and Elizabeth.

Roxy Todd is our producer. Our executive producer is Andrea Billups. Kelley Libby edited our show this week. Our audio mixer is Patrick Stephens. Zander Aloi also helped produce this episode. You can find us on Twitter @InAppalachia.

You can also send us an email to InsideAppalachia@wvpublic.org.

Inside Appalachia is a production of West Virginia Public Broadcasting.


Mason Adams grew up near the Virginia/West Virginia border in Clifton Forge, Virginia. He’s covered mountain communities and the issues affecting them since 2001. His work has appeared in Southerly, Daily Yonder, 100 Days in Appalachia, Mother Jones, Huffington Post and elsewhere. He lives with his family and a small herd of goats in Floyd County, Virginia. Follow him on Twitter @MasonAtoms.
Roxy Todd joined West Virginia Public Broadcasting in 2014 and works as the producer for Inside Appalachia. She's the recipient of a National Edward R. Murrow Award for "Excellence in Video," for a story about the demands small farmers face in West Virginia. She also won a National PMJA Award For "Best Feature" for her story about the history of John Denver's song "Country Roads." You can reach her at rtodd@wvpublic.org.