Appalachian music

April 22, 2011: Old-Time and Bluegrass Musician Hazel Dickens Dies

12 hours ago

Musician Hazel Dickens died in Washington, D.C., on April 22, 2011, at age 75. Oftentimes called the "Voice of West Virginia," Appalachian music matriarch Hazel Dickens was a pioneer of old-time and bluegrass music, known for preserving the traditional vocal styles of West Virginia

Phyllis Marks performing outside the Humanities Council’s MacFarland Hubbard House, in 2016.
Mike Keller / West Virginia Humanities Council

Ballad singer Phyllis Marks, a native of Gilmer County, West Virginia, passed away June 22, 2019 at the age of 92.

According to folklorist Gerry Milnes, Marks was the last active ballad singer in the state who, as she says, “learned by heart,” via oral transmission, namely from her mother, Arlene Layfield Frashure, and her grandmother, Sarah Margaret Messenger Layfield, who were of Irish ancestry.

Marks was among West Virginia’s finest musicians and was an exceptional bearer of traditional unaccompanied singing in the Appalachian region.

Courtesy of the artist

From West Virginia Public Broadcasting and A Change of Tune, this is 30 Days of #WVmusic, the interview series celebrating the folks who make the West Virginia music scene wild and wonderful.  

And today's interview is with an Appalachian quartet who are creating a new mountain sound for the next generation. This… is Apple Pappy.


Music has traditionally played a big role in the culture of Appalachia, and it seems that other countries are taking notice of the region’s rich musical tradition. In this episode of Inside Appalachia, we’ll hear from the tourism music trail in West Virginia called The Mountain Music Trail (MMT) Since we last heard from them, they have grown. The MMT recently was a finalist in the British Guild of Travel Writers 2016 tourism initiative awards in the “wider word” category, and was recognized as one of the top three destinations in the world. 

Polina Mourzina

Since the show began almost two years ago, A Change of Tune has highlighted some of the best up-and-coming artists out of these West Virginia hills with podcast-y chats ranging from Tyler Childers to The World is a Beautiful Place..., The Sea The Sea to Qiet and beyond.  But those interviews have been a bit infrequent, and since West Virginia Day is coming up (not to mention A Change of Tune’s second birthday), we thought we’d do something special: 30 days, 30 brand new #WVmusic interviews that range from Morgantown alt-rockers and Parkersburg singer-songwriters to West Virginia music venues and regional artist management and beyond, all of which contribute to this state’s wild and wonderful music scene.

And today, we are chatting with recent Davis & Elkins College graduate Kaia Kater, a singer-songwriter who traveled from Quebec to West Virginia nearly four years ago to learn more about Appalachia's old-time music and culture. We sat down with Kaia in our Charleston studios to talk about her musical journey, her love of bluegrass and R&B, and her recent feature from Rolling Stone magazine.

West Virginia University, Douglas Arbogast

This time of year, it’s the perfect temperature for people to gather on their back deck, maybe over some drinks, to play music. So for this week's episode of Inside Appalachia, Jessica Lilly and Roxy Todd spent some time uncovering a few, shall we say, mysteries behind Appalachian music. We’ll also hear how young people are reviving this old time music.

Travelin' Appalachian Tour Showcases Local Artists

Jun 18, 2015
Jade Artherhults

A group of friends from all around West Virginia have come together to form the Travelin' Appalachians Revue, a celebration of local writers, musicians and artists.

Co-founders Tyler Grady and Howard Parsons set out to show Appalachia in a different light with their tour, Tales of Tribulations and Turpitude. Grady and Parsons handpicked musicians, writers, poets and other artists to showcase in a series of events across the state.

When it came to choosing artists to showcase on their first tour, Grady said their friends were the first to come to mind.  

"These are guys who have been honing songwriting as a craft," Grady said.

Brynn Kusic

Racism and homophobia, love and tolerance--none of these are new to Appalachia. Today, we explore the stories of Appalachians who are moved to spread love, not hate.

In West Virginia, a racist hate crime shakes a community to spread a message of tolerance.

And a Kentucky songwriter’s high lonesome tune is inspired by a gay coal miner’s true story.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On West Virginia Morning, advocates say it won’t be long before the state’s ban on same sex marriage is overturned.  And a story about a group of Romanian music students who are traveling around the state learning Appalachian folk music.

Fiona Ritchie
University of North Carolina Press

On West Virginia Morning, Beth Vorhees has a special interview with Fiona Ritchie, the host of the popular NPR music program “The Thistle and Shamrock.”  Ritchie, along with co-author Doug Orr, has just published a book about the music migration from Scotland and Ireland to Appalachia.

Interview Highlights:

Fiona Ritchie:

"We needed to write this book.  It really is the outcome of decades of conversations between myself and my co-author Doug Orr which basically mirrored our own discoveries in the music."

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

A jam band in Sophia, West Virginia, plays for fun, but is also passing down an Appalachian tradition to younger generations to ensure bluegrass music doesn't fade away and one man's story of poverty.

Jessica Lilly

There’s a culture of music that’s been passed down orally through the hills of West Virginia for many generations.

Old time music has roots in Celtic and Native American cultures, as well as American ballads and popular music and poems that passed on through oral tradition. The practice of learning young the tunes of their ancestors is alive and well in Sophia, in Raleigh County.

“There’s a lot of good words in an old country song," Carl Hensly of Beckley said. "A lot of times it’s something that they go through."

Hensly is part of a small group of old time country, folks, bluegrass and gospel lovers that meet once a week at Sophia Fire Department in Raleigh County. The door is open to anyone that wants to join on Tuesday nights.

Clifftop Fans - Check Out This Documentary

Aug 3, 2014

This weekend, hundreds of fans of old-time music braved rain and mud to jam with each other at the Appalachian String Band Music Festival -- known better by its nickname, Clifftop.

Our own Bill Lynch wrote this story in the Sunday Gazette-Mail about Clifftop 2014. It talks about the informal, spontaneous nature of the event, where musicians wander from group to group, striking up jams along the way.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Glynis Board reports from the 2014 Ginseng Summit  and food tourism continues to grow in Appalachia with a new culinary map that shows where to find the best. Also, our friends at Traveling 219 bring us a story on an old time music workshop in Marlinton, West Virginia.