Carl Rutherford was born in 1929 in War and could trace his family’s roots in McDowell County back to the 1890s. At the age of 18, he went to work in the coal mines and was deeply moved by the determination, suffering and hardship he witnessed under ground. Rutherford preserved a unique and challenging style of guitar playing passed down within his family and community. His blend of mountain blues, old-time, big band, country, honky-tonk, and gospel music styles are reminiscent of the music heard in the southern coalfields during the 1920s. He was also an award-winning songwriter whose distinctive compositions are about themes familiar to West Virginians: coal mining, faith, romance and his mountain home. He passed away in 2006.
Photograph by Michael Keller.