Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

May 16, 2013

Goins to be inducted into the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame

ROCK — One of the great brother acts in the history of bluegrass music — Melvin Goins and his brother, the late Ray Goins — will be honored on Nov. 16, 2013, with induction into the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame.

“Ray and I started out in the late 1940s by going up to Tracy Dillon’s house on Sinai Mountain,” Goins said during a telephone interview Wednesday from his Tennessee home. “Tracy played those old fiddle tunes, so me and Ray went to his house to learn those old songs.

“Ray would wrap his old banjo in a sheepskin coat so the head wouldn’t get wet, and I would carry my old Harmony guitar in a burlap sack, and we would go up there to learn how to play,” Goins said. “On Sundays, we would sit on Tracy’s porch and play all the old songs. In the early ‘50s, Ray and I took walks in the woods on weekends and played music at an old log cabin where a couple of old flea-bitten hounds were the only audience we had.”

Melvin Goins was born in 1933 in a little log cabin in Rock where his father worked on a farm for 50 cents a day and his mother churned butter to earn a little extra money for the family. “We moved to a garage in During in 1936 where Ray was born and then Conley came along,” he said. There were 10 children in the Goins family — nine boys and one girl.

“Ray and I got a job in August of 1953 playing for a dance every Saturday night at Spanishburg for $12 a night,” Goins said. “We were staying at the old Drake Hotel for $6 a week. That only left us $6 a week to eat on. Plus, we were playing two shows a day on WHIS-AM radio on the Salt & Peanuts show. The radio didn’t charge us anything for playing on the air. There weren’t many people who would do that — play for $12 a week — but we were laying the foundation for the house.”

 The Goins brothers lived at the Drake until Nov. 15, 1953 when Cousin Ezra Cline of the Lonesome Pine Fiddlers hired them to travel with them to Pikeville, Ky., to play on radio and tour. “This November will make 60 years that we’ve been on the road,” Goins said. “When I was young, I wore the roads out, and now, they wore me out.”

During all that time, Goins has never flown to a show date, but that will all change in June when he flies to perform at Grass Valley California near San Francisco. “I’m a little shaky about flying,” he said. “I rode on a lot of trains, but I never flew on a plane, so that will be a new experience for me.

“It’s a real honor for me to be honored with groups like the Lilly Brothers, Hawkshaw Hawkins, the Lonesome Pine Fiddlers, Hazel Dickens and all the others in the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame,” Goins said. “How many people would have played music for $12 a day, I don’t know? Me and Ray had our hearts set on playing music, and that’s why we did it.”

In addition to Melvin Goins, three other living performers will be inducted into the Hall of Fame including Peter Marshall of Wheeling who starred on stage and screen, Wayne Moss of South Charleston, an accomplished musician and song writer, and Tim O’Brien, also of Wheeling, a Grammy Award-winning bluegrass, country and folk music artist. Landau Eugene Murphy Jr., will receive the 2013 Spirit Award.

Deceased inductees include Ada “Bricktop” Smith of Alderson, Eleanor Steber of Wheeling and the Swan Silvertones, a gospel group that was organized by Claude Jeter in 1938 in Coalwood, McDowell County. Solomon Womack, the uncle of R&B greats Bobby and Curtis Womack, was also a founding member.

Jeter’s vocal styling influenced R&B performers like Sam Cooke and Al Green, but Jeter chose to stay with gospel music. A line from one of Jeter’s most popular songs, “Mary Don’t You Weep,” included the line: “I’ll be a bridge over deep water if you trust my name.” That line inspired Paul Simon to write, “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” Simon paid Jeter $1,000 for inspiring the song.

“The Swan Silvertones played at Mill Creek Baptist Church in Coopers about 40 years ago,” Karl Miller said. Miller is a well-known southern West Virginia gospel artist. “They were good — they were good,” he said, recalling the performance. “They had an electric guitar player, an electric bass player and about five singers. Our pastor then, Reverend James Bradley, had been in Chicago before he came here. He knew the Swan Silvertones from up there.”

The ceremony honoring the inductees into the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame will be on Saturday, Nov. 16, in the Culture Center Theater in Charleston.

— Contact Bill Archer at

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