People often ask me, "What is folk music?" "What is country music?"
"What is bluegrass?" "What kind of music do you have in
West Virginia?" These are not easy questions to answer, and
they will perhaps never be answered to everyone's satisfaction. But
Ivan Tribe's meticulous study, Mountaineer Jamboree, is a welcome contribution
in showing what a many splendored thing country music in
West Virginia has been.
At the base of it all stands the folk music that rich repository of song
and tune expressed and shared by people for their own enjoyment and
satisfaction. Whether sung or played, whether performed at home or away,
whether in private or in public or in communal gatherings ranging from
homecomings to church services, folk music in West Virginia has provided
the cultural reservoir out of which all other forms of regional music
have sprung. There is music from the early pioneers but also music
from a variety of ethnic groups and from Afro-American West
Virginians. And while this music is an integral part of West Virginia's
history, I am happy to say that it remains a part
of our present as well.
What we call country music in West Virginia is rooted in the
folk music, yet it also shows influences from the popular music
of America. People today think of country music as a national
style emanating from Nashville and other central locations.
But Ivan Tribe's history shows us how much more complicated the
development of country music has been, and in West Virginia, at
least how strongly it is rooted in local and regional tastes
and values. We may be proud of how many West Virginians made
records in the history of country music, but those records also
remind us that country music styles have varied in different regions.
There is not, and should not be, a single country music style.
Rather, we can all take pride as Americans in the regional
diversity that exists throughout our great country.
One of Professor Tribe's most interesting contributions is his
history of country music on radio in West Virginia. Perhaps because
radio broadcasts have been less well preserved than commercial
recordings, we sometimes forget the importance of radio as
a medium in the development of country music. Certainly this volume
indicates how important radio and television have been in
West Virginiafrom the nationally famous Wheeling Jamboree to a
kaleidoscope of local and regional programs.
Bluegrass occupies a special niche in West Virginia's history, as
it does in other states of the Upper South. It developed in the
years after World War II as an alternative to the emerging standard
country sound. West Virginians participated in the development
of bluegrass in its early years, and it continues to be a popular
grassroots style throughout the state.
As one reads Mountaineer Jamboree, one is struck not only
by the famous names associated with West Virginia, but also by the
hundreds of other singers and instrumentalists who have made
their unique contributions. This is a history not simply of
famous personages but of those who have worked and shared and
contributed their creative spirit to give musical expression
to West Virginia's values and heritage.
From the book's Foreword, by former Senator Robert C. Byrd