Jamboree! To many country music fans the word conjures up memories
of Saturday nights around the family radio listening to live
broadcasts from that haven of hillbilly music, West Virginia. From
1926 through the 1950s, as Ivan Tribe shows in his lively history,
country music radio programming made the Mountain State a mecca for
country singers and instrumentalists from all over America.
Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper, Little Jimmy Dickens, Hawkshaw
Hawkins, Red Sovine, Blaine Smith, Curly Ray Cline, Grandpa Jones,
Cowboy Loye, Rex and Eleanor Parker, Lee Moore, Buddy Starcher, Doc
and Chickie Williams, and Molly O'Day were among the many who came
to prominence via West Virginia radio.
Wheeling's "WWVA jamboree," first broadcast in 1933, attracted a
wide audience, especially after 1942, when the station increased
its power. The show's success spawned numerous competitors, as new
stations all over West Virginia followed WWVA's lead in headlining
The state also played an important role in the early recording
industry. The Tweedy Brothers, Frank Hutchison, Roy Harvey, Blind
Alfred Reed, Frank Welling and John McGhee, Cap and Andy, and the
Kessinger Brothers were among West Virginians whose waxings
contributed to the state's reputation for fine native musicianship.
So too did those who sought out and recorded the Mountaineer
As Nashville's dominance has grown since the 1960s, West Virginia's
leadership in country music has lessened. Young performers must now
seek fame outside their native state. But, as Ivan Tribe
demonstrates, the state's numerous outdoor festivals continue to
keep alive the heritage of country music's "mountain mama."
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