Daniel Johnston

Credit Steve Helber/ AP

Think back to the last time you saw an Appalachian portrayed on TV, in the national media, in a book or a cartoon. Often, when people talk about Appalachians, they portray us as white, or poor, or ignorant -- or all three. But when you dig beneath the surface, and challenge the stereotypes that are often used to misrepresent people who live in our region, the story becomes much more honest, and interesting.

Morgantown native J. Marinelli poses with Daniel Johnston in Louisville, Kentucky in November 2008.
Eir-Anne Edgar / Courtesy Photo

West Virginia-raised musician and artist Daniel Johnston died this week at the age of 58. Known best for his earnest and harrowing lo-fi pop songs, Johnston remained an underground hero for most of his life. His influence, though, continues to stretch across musical and artistic genres -- and around the world.

Whether you’ve heard of Daniel Johnston or not, here’s a quick warning: There’s really no way to fully condense his life and work into a few minutes worth of radio or a short written article. 

There are full-length documentaries for that -- films that show a brilliant, yet tortured person. There are flashes of genius interspersed with dark stories about psychotic episodes, bad hallucinogenic trips, and unrequited love.

In the backdrop, of course, are songs that have inspired countless people.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

We have a very musical West Virginia Morning for you. We’ll hear from singers in Oregon, a pop musician from the Northern Panhandle, and fiddlers in Clay County who have been handing down old-time music for a long time.

First up, get your popcorn ready — this Saturday evening, you can watch our new documentary, In Tune, about the old-time music community in West Virginia.

As Roxy Todd reports, one of the musicians in the film is teaching traditional music to the next generation through the West Virginia Humanities Council’s Folklife Apprenticeship program.

Harry Cabluck / AP Photo

Musician and artist Daniel Johnston was known for eccentric and sometimes harrowing pop songs colored by childlike innocence and romantic longing.  His life and work have been seen as an inspiration to many artists and musicians.

Johnston was found dead at home Wednesday morning at the age of 58. According to a statement from his family, he died of natural causes. 

Roberto Cavolo / Two Dollar Radio

"We want to always have this doomed artist cliche that doesn't exist, but there's always these other individuals as a part of the story as well."

Aaron New

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 Rozwell Kid to Beach House drummer Graham Hill, Goodwolf to Teammate's Scott Simons 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.