Well-Known Musicians from West Virginia
West Virginia talent spans beyond Country music, although we have a few of those stars also. A Grammy winning soul artist and Christian artist, both have West Virginia Roots.
Kathy Mattea, born in South Charleston, West Virginia, is a two-time Grammy winning country singer. She has charted more than thirty singles on the Billboard Hot Country Songs and received Grammys for her song “Where You’ve Been” and her Christmas album “Good News”. She has received five gold certifications and one platinum certification from the Recording Industry Association of America for her albums, four Country Music Association Awards and four Academy of Country Music Awards. Outside of music, Mattea is a social and environmental activist. She advocates for the arts and education. Her presentation, “My Coal Journey” touches on her family’s ties to coal mining culture in Appalachia and discusses environmental and social justice issues surrounding coal mining practices.
Brad Paisley grew up in Glen Dale, West Virginia and is a very successful country musician. His awards are numerous including those received from the Academy of Country Music, American Country Awards, American Music Awards, and the Grammys, among others. Growing up in Glen Dale, he would play at local events and formed a band with his guitar teacher and two of his parents’ friends. After graduating from high school, he attended West Liberty State College for two years and was then awarded a full scholarship to Belmont University in Nashville. While at Belmont he met fellow student Frank Rogers, who would go on to be Paisley’s producer. Within a week of graduating from Belmont, Paisley signed a songwriting contract with EMI Music Publishing. Recently, he and his wife partnered with Belmont University and opened a free, referral-based grocery store in Nashville to assist the community members in need.
Michael W. Smith
Michael W. Smith is a three-time Grammy Award winner, the recipient of 45 Dove Awards and an American Music Award. He is primarily a Christian artist but has topped both Christian and contemporary charts. His work “Place in This World” hit number 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 and is his biggest mainstream music success. He is from Kenova, West Virginia.
Bill Withers, three-time Grammy winner and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame soul singer, grew up in Slab Fork, West Virginia. After high school, Withers joined the Navy and after serving, worked as a milkman in Santa Clara County, California and later at an aircraft parts factory. Music did not play a big role in his life until one night at a club when he overheard how much money was being made by the act booked that night. After that night he purchased a cheap guitar at a pawnshop and taught himself to play. He wrote songs in between factory shifts. A demo tape of his found its way to Clarence Avant at Sussex Records. One of the first songs he cut was “Ain’t No Sunshine”. Other hits of his include “Lean on Me”, “Lovely Day” and “Use Me”. He passed away in March of 2020 at the age of 81.
This series will conclude with a feature on some other West Virginians in pop culture.