MADISON — Ivan Tribe, Professor of History at the University of Rio Grande, visited the Boone Madison Public Library on Main Street in downtown Madison last week to talk about country music and his new book, “West Virginia’s Traditional Country Music.”
West Virginia has been known for a century as a rich repository of traditional country music and musicians. Beginning in the mid-1920s, phonograph recordings and radios brought this music to a wider audience. With the passing of time and the influence of commercialization, this music developed into what became first known as “hillbilly” and then into the more refined “country” because of its long appeal to those of rural background. Although modernization has caused the traditional element to recede considerably, much still remains. Many folk still cling to the older sounds exemplified by the “raw” traditionalists and the neo-traditional bluegrass style that emerged in the 1940s. From the earliest recording artists, such as the Tweedy Brothers and David Miller, who was blind, to contemporary stars like Kathy Mattea and Brad Paisley, West Virginians and others have held their musicians in high esteem.
A native of Albany, Ohio he earned a B.S. Ed. from Ohio University in 1962 and an M.A. in 1967. After teaching high school in Vinton and Meigs counties for six years, he returned to graduate school in 1970 and took a Ph.D. in American History from the University of Toledo in 1976. His research has been concerned with the history of communities and coal mining in southeastern Ohio, and also with the history of traditional country and bluegrass music – particularly in the Appalachian region. Ivan was awarded Emeritus Professor of History ranking in May 2007.
Although he never visited the Rio Grande campus prior to the 1960s, his connections with the school run deep. His great, great grandmother was the older sister of Ira Z. Haning and he often attended the Albany Baptist Church – also founded by Ira Z Haning – as a child. He also knew older residents of the community who had attended the Atwood Institute in their youth including the doctor who delivered him.
Tribe’s publications include over 200 articles in such journals as Ohio History; The Old Northwest; The Journal of Appalachian Studies; The Northwest Ohio Quarterly; Mid-America Folklore
Goldenseal: West Virginia Traditional Life; Tennessee Folklore Society Bulletin; Knight Templar; The Scottish Rite Journal; and Bluegrass Unlimited.
His more than 40 book and record reviews have appeared in several of the above publications as well as The Journal of American History, The Oral History Review, The Journal of American Folklore, Journal of Southern History, The Georgia Historical Quarterly, Appalachian Journal, and The Journal of Country Music among others.
In addition he has written liner notes for more than 80 record albums for such labels as Rounder, Rebel, County and Old Homestead.
Tribe’s books include:
• Albany, Ohio: The First Fifty Years of a Rural Midwestern Community (Athens: Athens County Historical Society, 1980)
• Little Cities of Black Diamonds: Urban Development in the Hocking Coal Region, 1870-1900 (Athens: Athens County Historical Society, 1986)
• Mountaineer Jamboree: Country Music in West Virginia (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1984)
• Sprinkled With Coal Dust (Athens: Athens County Historical Society, 1989)
• The Stonemans: An Appalachian Family and the Music that Shaped Their Lives (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1993)
• Rio Grande: From Baptists and Bevo to the Bell Tower (Ashland, KY: Jesse Stuart Foundations, 2002) – co-written with Abby Gail Goodnite
• Country: A Regional Exploration (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2006)
Fred Pace is an editor for Civitas Media. He can be reached at 304-369-1165, ext. 1661, in Madison; at 304-752-6950, ext. 1729 in Logan; by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or @fcpace62 on Twitter.