Larry Groce, host and artistic director for Mountain Stage for 36 years, will be inducted into the 2020 Class of the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame.
Groce, a native of Dallas, Texas, moved to Phillipi, Barbour County, in 1972 when he was an NEA-sponsored musician-in-residence, for Barbour, Tucker and Randolph counties. Since then, Groce has had a profound impact on music and the arts in his adopted state, co-founding the nationally syndicated West Virginia Public Broadcasting/NPR show “Mountain Stage” in 1983. Mountain Stage is heard weekly on more than 220 NPR stations and has recorded more than 900 episodes.
"It's a tremendous honor to be inducted into the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame,” Groce said. “To be included in the company of Bill Withers, Charlie McCoy, Billy Edd Wheeler, Hazel Dickens, Little Jimmy Dickens, Kathy Mattea, Tim OBrien, Johnnie Johnson, George Crumb, Bob Thompson and the like is truly overwhelming. I've worked with many of them on Mountain Stage and have listened in awe of their talent and wisdom.
“I chose West Virginia as my home 47 years ago and have made my music career and raised my family here,” Groce added. “I love this state and appreciate what Michael Lipton and the board of the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame have done to recognize the many and very diverse artists who have made their mark on music culture. Every kid growing up in the Mountain State should listen to Bill Withers when he tells them that no one anywhere else in the world has something they don't have: ‘no matter what your circumstance is right now, if you work on yourself every day and try to hold on and learn what you can, you might not only surprise some other people, you might surprise yourself.’ ”
“I am continually surprised at how fortunate I've been to have a life in music,” Groce said.
Chuck Roberts, executive director and CEO of WVPB, said he is thankful for Groce’s 36-year commitment to Mountain Stage and that his induction into the Hall of Fame is beyond well deserved.
“We at West Virginia Public Broadcasting have been proud to bring the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame induction ceremonies to the public in our great state,” Roberts said. “When it airs this time, it will have even more significance because Larry Groce’s name is added to the hallowed halls of great musicians.
“His talents as a musician, his knowledge of artists past and present, and his love for our state all make him a valued Mountain State commodity. His induction is well-deserved, and it is an honor to call him our Mountain Stage host and a lifelong friend,” Roberts said.
In addition to his Mountain Stage career, Groce has served as the director of Charleston’s music, art and dance celebration, FestivALL and his projects have been diverse and speak to his appreciation of all facets of the arts. For example, he owned and operated The Morgantown School of Ballet; starred in the West Virginia feature film “Paradise Park” (and recently wrote the songs for the musical of the same name); was co-publisher of the statewide alternative newspaper Graffiti; produced, directed and composed music for an audio version of “Gauley Mountain”— a collection of 81 historical poems by the late West Virginian Poet Laureate Louise McNeill; and produced a three-hour audio version of five short stories written by McNeill’s father, G.D. McNeill.
Groce is a noted singer and songwriter and has recorded albums of original songs, hymns and a number of LPs for Disney Records. Four of his Disney albums were certified gold and two were certified platinum. One was nominated for a GRAMMY in the “Best Recording for Children” category.
In 1976, his satirical novelty song “Junk Food Junkie” charted in the Billboard Top 10. The song was once sung by Michael Jackson and led to appearances on “The Tonight Show,” “The Merv Griffin Show,” “American Bandstand” and “The Midnight Special.”
Groce has recorded more than two dozen LPs, scores of singles, EPs and collections for RCA/Daybreak, Warner-Curb, Disneyland/Walt Disney Records and independent labels, ranging in style from singer/songwriter Americana to gospel hymns to children’s music.
Additional inductees in the 2020 Class of the West Virginia Hall of Fame are Ethel Caffie-Austin, West Virginia’s First Lady of Gospel; Honey & Sonny Davis (The Davis Twins), a brother-sister country-rockabilly duo; Mayf Nutter, an eclectic singer, songwriter and actor; and The Hammons Family of Pocahontas County (Edden, Pete, Maggie Hammons Parker, Sherman, Burl, Lee and Currence Hammons).
Michael Lipton, director of the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame, said it is the Hall of Fame’s mission to recognize outstanding artists who were born or raised in the Mountain State and that the inductees for 2020, the eighth class, honors unique and diverse West Virginia artists who have made lasting contributions to the music of their home state and American music.
“These inductees all come from humble beginnings and, with passion and determination, have succeeded on their own terms,” Lipton said. “We want to send a message to young people in West Virginia that, no matter where you live and no matter what your circumstances are, you can follow your dreams. And, in some ways, it’s easier in West Virginia than other places.”
For more information and bios on all of the inductees, visit www.wvmusichalloffame.co