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Wheeling Jamboree Book Highlights Performers

WHEELING — Fans of country music from its early days at The Jamboree in Wheeling, are sure to delight in the newest publication that includes photos of the many long-ago forgotten performers who once graced the stage at the Capitol Music Hall and Expo Hall on Wheeling Island.

The book is titled “The Jamboree in Wheeling,” and is the third music publication by authors Ivan M. Tribe and Jacob L. Bapst.

After publishing two previous books – “Mountaineers Jamboree: Country Music in West Virginia” in 1984, and “West Virginia’s Traditional Country Music” in 2015, the authors felt Wheeling’s Jamboree rated its own book. All of the books are published by Arcadia Publishing as part of its “Images of America” series.

Released this past November, the book pays tribute to country music performers — some who made it big and others who faded into the sunset, but all whose voices and music emanate from the airwaves of WWVA. That 50,000-watt Wheeling-based radio station brought the Jamboree to listeners in the United States and Canada from 1933 through 2005.

Whether it’s old-time tunes, bluegrass or the modern sounds of country music, you will find “The Jamboree in Wheeling” will invoke many memories. Fans of the Jamboree will recognize many of the names including Doc and Chickie Williams and the Border Riders band. And later, joining them were daughters Barbara “Peeper” Smik, Madeline “Pooch” Johnson and Karen “Punkin” McKenzie.

Smik worked with the authors of “The Jamboree in Wheeling” and wrote the foreward for the book. She also provided nearly one-third or more of the prized and rare photos contained in the book.

Even if you could not be there in person, many youngsters tucked a transistor radio under their pillows and were lulled to sleep by the sweet sounds of the Sunshine Boys, the Kershaw Brothers, the Osborne Brothers or Abbie Neal’s Ranch Girls to name just a few.

Later would come the Jamboree “regulars” who kept audiences ringing their cow bells. In the book you will find photos and information about Leon Douglas, Connie Smith, the Short Creek Flatpickers, Charlie Moore, JoAnn Davis and Jimmie Stephens, Lionel Cartwright, Roger Hoard, Slim Lehart, Mayf Nutter and none other than Brad Paisley. Wheeling natives Tim O’Brien and his sister Mollie O”Brien brought their own bluegrass mastery to the Wheeling stage.

The book contains many more long-ago acts that pleased several generations of audience. In addition, the book has photos of some of the comedy acts that also appeared in Wheeling at The Jamboree.

Within the 127 pages, the authors weave their way through Wheeling’s Jamboree history from 1933 through 2020. In addition to Smik’s family albums, photos came from Terrence McGill, David Heath, Richard Weize/Bear Archives, John Morris and others.

Both Tribe and Bapst are retired emeritus faculty/staff of the University of Rio Grande in Rio Grande, Ohio, the college initially made famous by the basketball achievements of Bevo Francis, a native of Jefferson County, Ohio.

The book is available at arcadiapublishing.com, at Amazon or online at the Wheeling Artisan Center website. Also, you can send $20 to Ivan Tribe, 111 E. High St., McArthur Ohio 45651.

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