Black Mountain Bluegrass Boys kick off Mountain Music Trail series
The Pocahontas County Opera House will celebrate the Mountain Music Trail with the Black Mountain Bluegrass Boys on Saturday, Aug. 31 at 7:30 p.m. The band has become a regional audience favorite and a mainstay of the Opera House’s annual performance series.
Venues, musicians and tourism offices in West Virginia Counties have joined together to create the Mountain Music Trail – a regional partnership devoted to promoting cultural tourism and sustainable economic development through traditional music, dance and folkways of the Allegheny Mountain region.
The Mountain Music Trail is loosely based along the U.S. Route 219 corridor and places an emphasis on old-time, bluegrass, country, gospel and regionally significant ethnic music that is found in the region.
The Black Mountain Bluegrass Boys are among West Virginia’s longest-running bluegrass bands. The group first organized in 1968 around the foursome of Richard Hefner (banjo/tenor vocal), his brother Bill Hefner (guitar/mandolin/baritone vocal), their late uncle Glenn “Dude” Irvine (mandolin) and the late Harley Carpenter (guitar/lead vocal). They took their name from Black Mountain in their native Pocahontas County. For five years the group worked a weekly radio show on WVAR, in Richwood. The also made regular appearances at local events and regional bluegrass festivals. In the mid-1970s they recorded a pair of albums: “Million Lonely Days” and “Talk of the County.” More recent albums include “Black Mountain Bluegrass Boys 1968-1973,” “Live at Midnight,” “Live at The Opera House” and “Live at Greenbrier Valley Theatre.”
As with many bands, the Black Mountain Bluegrass Boys have had changes in personnel over the years. Richard Hefner remains as the lone original member. Hefner’s traditional bluegrass banjo playing and tenor vocals have contributed both continuity and much of the “high lonesome” sound for which the band has become so well-known. He has displayed his banjo skills many times as a victor in contests and at the Vandalia Festival. Chris Nickell from Monroe County, contributes driving lead and rhythm guitar work as well as lead vocals. Rick Carpenter – son of founding member Harley Carpenter – picks a fine mandolin and sings lead and baritone vocals. Bass player Mike Smith, of Culloden, has worked with such notables as Larry Sparks, Dave Evans, and the Goins Brothers.
Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $8. Children 17 and under are admitted free of charge. Tickets are available in advance at pocahontasoperahouse.org and at the Fourth Avenue Gallery in Marlinton.
The Pocahontas County Opera House is located at 818 Third Avenue in Marlinton. Performances at the Opera House are informal, family-friendly and open to all. The entrance and main seating are accessible to persons with disabilities. Persons with disabilities are encouraged to attend; special accommodations can be arranged upon request by calling 304-799-6645.
The Opera House Performance Series is presented with financial assistance through a grant from the WV Division of Culture and History and the National Endowment for the Arts, with approval from the WV Commission on the Arts. Financial support is also provided by Pocahontas County Drama, Fairs and Festivals, Pendleton Community Bank and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, Allegheny Mountain Radio and the Law Office of Roger D. Forman.
Mountain Music Trail kick-off events will be held at several venues in the coming months. The events range from music to square dancing to festivals and include the following:
• Sept. 6, 8:30 p.m. – Hillbilly Gypsies at The Purple Fiddle Café in Thomas, $12.
• Sept. 19, 7 p.m. – Old-time Traditional Square Dance at Carnegie Hall in Lewisburg, $5.