May 25, 2011
The Vandalia Award, West Virginia’s highest folklife honor, will be presented to renowned fiddle player, entertainer, educator, mentor and advocate for bluegrass and traditional country music, Buddy Griffin of Glenville, Gilmer County, on Friday, May 27, at the 35th Anniversary Vandalia Gathering. Griffin will receive the award during a 7 p.m. ceremony and concert in the Norman L. Fagan West Virginia State Theater in the Culture Center, State Capitol Complex, Charleston. Griffin and his group, the Glenville State Bluegrass Band, will perform during the concert.
Griffin grew up in Nicholas County in a musical household, learning authentic mountain music from his parents, Erma and Richard Griffin. His first professional instrument was the banjo. Subsequently he added fiddle, mandolin, guitar and bass to his repertoire.
Impressed by the style of network radio performers in the mid- to late 1950s, and consumed by the acoustic folk music boom in the 1960s, Griffin decided early in life that he wanted to be a professional musician. Even while he was in college where he received a bachelor of arts degree in education, he planned to pursue a career in entertainment. He began performing on radio and television with his family in the early 1960s appearing on “The Buddy Starcher Show” on WCHS in Charleston; WVAR in Richwood; WSGB in Sutton and WHAW in Weston. During this time period, he taught string music at Leivasy Elementary School in Leivasy, near his hometown.
Griffin later became the staff banjo and fiddle player for WWVA’s Jamboree USA in Wheeling. While there, he won the West Virginia State Banjo and Fiddle championships. During the mid- to late 1970s, he performed at bluegrass music festivals throughout the United States and Canada, performing and recording with such artists as Bill Monroe, Josh Graves, Mother Maybelle Carter, John Hartford and the Goins Brothers. He also spent time traveling to schools in southern West Virginia, southwest Virginia and eastern Kentucky conducting educational programs featuring bluegrass music and the dramatization of Appalachian folk tales. In the 1970s and 1980s, he performed on more than 150 commercially available recordings on such labels as Rounder, Rebel, Old Homestead, Folkways, Vetco and Screengems. In 1980 he, along with his parents, performed as featured artists in the internationally distributed documentary Keep On The Sunny Side, which highlighted the historic Carter Family.
During his 40-plus year career, his music nominations and awards have included the Most-Promising Bluegrass Fiddler nomination in 1975; the Branson, Mo., Old-Time Fiddle Champion in 1990; the Branson Fiddler of the Year nomination in 1992; and the Branson Mandolin Player of the Year award in 1992. His live stage appearances have included the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts; the Winnipeg, Canada Folk Festival; the Mariposa, Canada Folk Festival; the Festival of the United States in Louisville; the Gold Coast in Las Vegas, and the Cristy Lane Theatre and the Albert E. Brumley Music Show, both in Branson, Mo. Radio and television broadcasts include the Grade Ole Opry, the Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree, Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion, Mountain Stage and a TV Land Television special with Andy Griffith for the dedication of a statue of Griffith in Mount Airy, N.C.
In March 1996, Griffin and his parents won the highly coveted Host’s Favorite Award on A Prarie Home Companion. Between 1995 and 2003, Griffin developed and operated an old-time radio-style creative writing and production workshop for universities, colleges and secondary schools. The program, Radio’s Golden Memories, was developed in conjunction with the WFMT Fine Arts Network in Chicago, and was designed to be an exercise in creative radio writing and production while preserving the artistic heritage of early radio broadcasting in America.
In 1997, Griffin returned home to West Virginia, where he founded the nation’s first degree program in bluegrass music at Glenville State College. Currently he serves as director of cultural events and head of the bluegrass music program at the school. He also has produced more than 250 original Mountain Air syndicated radio programs for the college. He spends his spare time working in his own recording, publishing and production company, Braxton Records, which has released 16 acoustic music albums on cassette or CD in the past few years.
For more information about the Vandalia Gathering and the Vandalia Award, contact Caryn Gresham, deputy commissioner for the Division, at (304) 558-0220.
The West Virginia Division of Culture and History is an agency within the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts with Kay Goodwin, Cabinet Secretary. The Division, led by Commissioner Randall Reid-Smith, brings together the past, present and future through programs and services focusing on archives and history, arts, historic preservation and museums. For more information about the Division’s programs, events and sites, visit www.wvculture.org. The Division of Culture and History is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.
Media Note: Buddy Griffin can be reached at (304) 462-6342.