The Rhinestone Hillbilly CD

About the Performers

Like Little Jimmy Dickens, inducted into the WV Music Hall of Fame in 2007, all of the performers on The Rhinestone Hillbilly have longstanding connections to the state of West Virginia.



Julie Adams
For 33 years, Julie Adams has been the featured vocalist for NPR’s “Mountain Stage” radio program, singing more than 900 songs, at least one on every broadcast. The Charleston singer is also a staple of the many CD collections that the show has spawned as well as two solo editions with the Mountain Stage Band. Adams’ warm, sunny vocals have distinct folk-pop roots, flavored with tastes of jazz and blues, as heard on two albums with her backing band, the Rhino Boys, Struck by Moonlight and I Don’t Mind Walking; Christmas Angel with bassist Steve Hill; and John Hartford’s album Live from Mountain Stage. She can also be heard singing with Blues Du Jour, an eight-piece blues and R&B group.

Todd Burge
A native of Parkersburg, WV, Todd Burge has played everything from alternative rock to bluegrass and is known for his wry humor, soaring vocal, and dexterous guitar work. Drawing on a life rich with experiences, the West Virginia troubadour has emerged as one of West Virginia’s most prolific singer-songwriters. Burge has released 15 albums, including 2012’s Building Character (produced by Don Dixon), 2015’s Imitation Life (produced by Tim O’Brien) and 2016’s Live on Mountain Stage. Burge is known for his songs about the state, including “Up in the West Virginia Hills,” “Wood County Man” and “Talkin’ Back to Parkersburg Blues.”

The Carpenter Ants
Together for over three decades, Charleston’s Carpenter Ants have logged more than 3,000 performances of their soulful Appalachian blend of roots music. The group still consists of the four original members who together have made three trips to Moscow for shows at a variety of venues including the prestigious Russia Concert Hall as well as funky clubs and gaudy casinos. Back in the US, they’ve performed at church services, presidential rallies, festivals, biker rallies and, of course, a nudist camp. In 2016, the group was invited to tour Banska Bystrica, Slovakia, as part of a cultural exchange.

Larry Groce
Born in Dallas, TX, Larry Groce is a singer-songwriter and producer whose career has taken him from recording Platinum children’s records for Walt Disney, to “Junk Food Junkie,” to West Virginia, where he co-founded NPR’s nationally syndicated live-music show, “Mountain Stage.” In 1976, after recording with family bluegrass band the Currence Brothers, a song Groce had recorded live at McCabe’s in Santa Monica, CA – “Junk Food Junkie” – became a surprise Top 10 smash. During the next three years, he performed on “The Tonight Show,” “Merv Griffin Show,” “American Bandstand,” “The Rich Little Show” and “The Midnight Special.” His songs have been recorded by, among others, Michael Jackson and Pat Boone. Groce moved to Charleston in the 1980s to concentrate on “Mountain Stage,” now in its 34th year, and is still its host and artistic director while continuing to record and perform.


Russ Hicks
A pedal steel and Dobro master, Russ Hicks was born in Beckley, WV, where he played guitar with a high school band that was signed to Decca Records. Inspired by pedal steel great Buddy Emmons, who played in Little Jimmy Dickens’ Country Boys Band, Hicks began playing pedal steel and snagged a gig replacing steel guitarist Weldon Myrick in the band of Connie Smith, another country icon featured on The Rhinestone Hillbilly. Hicks was a member of the Nashville’s Barefoot Jerry, a fan-favorite group of session players led by fellow West Virginian Wayne Moss, recording six albums. For 13 years, Hicks was a member of the house band on the TV show “Hee Haw,” which was led by Charlie McCoy.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Hicks was an “A Team” Nashville musician who played on hundreds of albums, a string that continues with such artists as Ray Price, Marty Robbins, Ronnie Milsap, Mickey Gilley, Larry Gatlin, Jerry Lee Lewis, Tom T. Hall, Don Gibson, Wanda Jackson, Townes Van Zandt, and the Charlie Daniels Band, as well as Clint Eastwood’s Every Which Way But Loose and other movie soundtracks.


John Lilly
Since 1997, John Lilly has served as editor of Goldenseal magazine and as Folklife Director for the West Virginia Division of Culture and History. A nationally recognized musician and songwriter as well as a traditional music authority, Lilly is a contributor to the Encyclopedia of Country Music, The West Virginia Encyclopedia and the Encyclopedia of Appalachia. He also served as associate editor of the Old-Time Herald magazine, publicity coordinator for the Augusta Heritage Center of Davis & Elkins College, and tour guide for Nashville's Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum.


Ann Magnuson
A product of Kanawha County, WV, Ann Magnuson is a multi-talented writer, actress, singer, and musician whose extensive career covers nearly every facet of the arts. She has acted in Hollywood blockbusters, off-Broadway plays, TV sitcoms and indie films, fronted various bands, and has presented her original performance art pieces at museums including the Whitney, MoMA, and Tokyo’s Sogetsu Hall. After studying theater in London, she moved to New York City in 1978 where she became an integral part of the city’s arts and music scene. Her movie career includes Clear and Present Danger, Before and After, Desperately Seeking Susan, Making Mr. Right, The Hunger, and Panic Room.

As a singer and songwriter, her bands have included the sardonic folk trio Bleaker Street Incident and the heavy metal Vulcan Death Grip. Her psycho-psychedelic band Bongwater released five albums, gaining an international cult following. She also wrote and performed songs with the John Cale for his performance piece “Life Underwater.” Magnuson has released three solo projects and performed her one-woman show about growing up in Charleston, “You Could be Home Now,” around the country. Her current musical, socio-political, stream-of-consciousness production is titled, Seriously, WTF?! – Dream Girl Reacts to the National Nightmare.  Ann Magnuson will be inducted into the WV Music Hall of Fame in 2018.


Kathy Mattea
On her way to becoming one of the most successful country stars of the past few decades, Kathleen Alice "Kathy" Mattea and her exceptional, classically trained, mezzo-soprano voice performed with the bluegrass band Pennsboro before dropping out of college and signing a deal with Mercury Records in 1983. The third release from the Cross Lanes, WV, native, 1986’s Walk the Way the Wind Blows, began a string of top-selling albums and more than 30 singles that have made the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts, including four Number Ones – “Goin’ Gone,” “18 Wheels and a Dozen Roses,” “Come from the Heart,” and “Burnin’ Old Memories.” Twelve more hit the Top Ten.

Mattea has collaborated with Dolly Parton, Michael McDonald, Tim O’Brien, and her singer-songwriter husband, Jon Vezner, and is a two-time Grammy winner for Where’ve You Been (1990) and the 1993 Christmas album, Good News. A product of her outspoken criticism of mountaintop removal and reaction to the Sago Mine disaster, Mattea’s 2009, Grammy-nominated album Coal, produced by Marty Stuart, was followed in 2014 by the bluegrass-tinged, Calling Me Home (Sugar Hill Records), with more coal mining-themed songs. Kathy Mattea was inducted into the WV Music Hall of Fame in 2013.


Charlie McCoy
Born in Oak Hill, Fayette County, WV, harmonica legend Charlie Ray McCoy bought his first mouth harp at the age of 8 through a comic book ad. Since then the “A List” improviser has played on more than 6,000 recordings, accompanying virtually every classic country singer – from Johnny Cash and George Jones to Dolly Parton and Waylon Jennings. Country great Chet Atkins put McCoy to work as a session musician and in over four decades of recordings he sometimes played more than 400 sessions in a year. McCoy’s versatility on guitar, bass, drums, keys, vibes, and horns makes him an asset in any musical setting, including many stints for Roy Orbison and Elvis Presley, four albums with Bob Dylan, and recordings with Leon Russell, Flatt & Scruggs, Ween, and Paul Simon.

Musical director of the “Hee-Haw” television show for 19 years, McCoy was a founding member of country-rock pioneers Area Code 615 and Barefoot Jerry. He gained a Top 20 hit with “Today I Started Loving You Again” and a Grammy for his 1972 LP, The Real McCoy, one of his 34 albums. Charlie McCoy was inducted into the WV Music Hall of Fame in 2008.


Landau Eugene Murphy, Jr.
Known for his smooth versions of Frank Sinatra favorites, Landau Eugene Murphy, Jr. hails from Logan County, WV. In his 20s, he fronted bar bands, worked at a car wash, and was plagued by financial troubles. He saw an ad for NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” show and decided to audition and made it, drawing from the Rat Pack songs in his repertoire. Singing “My Way” in the finals, Landau – with his good looks, warm voice, and the novelty of a guy with dreadlocks singing spot-on Sinatra – was named the winner of AGT’s sixth season in 2011. Winning came with a Columbia Records contract and Landau released his debut CD, That’s Life, in time for Christmas 2011, debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard Jazz charts. Landau and his 16-piece band have headlined Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas and he has performed with the Boston Pops, at NY’s Apollo Theater, at the Rose Bowl parade, and on “The Today Show,” and “The View.”

Mayf Nutter
In the late 1960s, Frank Zappa approached singer-narrator-actor Mayf Nutter after a set at L.A.’s Troubadour, offering to create a new label for his recordings, Straight Records (subsequent home to Alice Cooper and Tim Buckley). Nutter’s debut for Straight was a single of Fred Neil’s “Everybody’s Talkin’,” which, unfortunately, came out at the same time as Harry Nilsson’s version (made famous by the film Midnight Cowboy).

Born into a musical family in Jane Lew, WV, Mayf Nutter Adamson had a string of mini-hits in the 1970s, including the Johnny Cash tribute “Hey There Johnny” and “Goin’ Skinny Dippin’.” He guested 56 times on Buck Owens’ TV Ranch. Nutter’s song “Simpson Creek,” about pollution from mine runoff near his home, is considered one of the first eco songs. A member of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, Nutter was the first American country performer to appear on Chinese TV (1982), was the first “bad guy” caught by Charlie’s Angels, and played three different characters on “Days of Our Lives.”

Mollie O’Brien
Like her brother Tim, Mollie O’Brien is a native of Wheeling, WV, where, during high school, they teamed up as a folk duo. A widely admired bluegrass, R&B, and folk singer, Mollie was also a fixture on the R&B and jazz circuits in Colorado in the 1980s. She has released a number of Americana albums with her brother, starting with the 1988 duets album Take Me Back, as well as several well-received solo CDs, including her 1987 debut, I Never Move Too Soon. Mollie also joined the Mother Folkers for 1989’s Live at the Arvada Center. She regularly tours in a duo with her husband, guitarist Rich Moore. Together they’ve released Saints and Sinners, the live 900 Baseline album, and 2014’s Love Runner. Mollie regularly appears on A Prairie Home Companion and Mountain Stage.

Tim O’Brien
Wheeling’s Tim O’Brien rose to prominence with the Colorado-based bluegrass band Hot Rize and its tongue-in-cheek, C&W alter ego, Red Knuckles and the Trailblazers. O’Brien’s album Fiddler’s Green earned him a 2006 Grammy for Best Traditional Folk Recording and he quickly became one of the most sought-after players on the folk-country-bluegrass circuit. His latest album is When the River Meets the Road, which follows 15 solo records and countless collaborations and mixes bluegrass, country, old-time and Americana styles with songs by O’Brien, Bill Withers, Hazel Dickens, and Billy Edd Wheeler.

O’Brien tours tirelessly, sometimes with the all-star Flatt & Scruggs tribute band, the Earls of Leicester. He performed on and helped to produce the WVMHoF’s first CD project, Always Lift Him Up: A Tribute to Blind Alfred Reed, and produced three of the tracks on The Rhinestone Hillbilly. Of Dickens, O’Brien says, “Tater was a legendary frontman, a relentless practical joker, and one of the best ballad singers in all of country.” Tim O’Brien was inducted into the WV Music Hall of Fame in 2013.

James Price
Fiddler extraordinaire James Price, a native of Boone County, WV, is one of the most respected players in bluegrass music. Price was a member of the Clinch Mountain Boys and toured with Ralph Stanley for eight years. He has also toured with Little Jimmy Dickens, the Goins Brothers and Johnny Paycheck. In 2003, he won a Grammy for Bluegrass Album of the Year and played on four recordings that were awarded the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Album of the Year honors. Price has recorded tracks with artists including George Jones, Dolly Parton, Bob Dylan, Sara Evans and Porter Wagoner and been a featured performer at Carnegie Hall, the Grand Ole Opry, and “Late Night With David Letterman.” He currently tours with his band Kentucky Reign.

Robert Shafer
Born in 1963 in Walton, WV, Robert Shafer has been in acoustic guitar flatpicking since his teens, when he began entering competitions. Shafer has won state championships in Kentucky (3 times), Tennessee (twice), Ohio (twice), and Alabama, and is a two-time winner of the National Flatpicking Championship, which draws competitors from all over the globe. In the mid-1980s, Shafer took up the electric guitar and in 2000, Shafer joined forces with mandolin phenom Johnny Staats to play an eclectic mix of bluegrass, jazz and gospel in duo, trio and full-band formats. Shafer has performed on “Mountain Stage,” “The Grand Ole Opry,” “The Today Show,” BBC, and CNN, and in Europe and has released a number of CDs, including Hillbilly Fever with vocals by Don Dixon, recording engineer for The Rhinestone Hillbilly.

Connie Smith
Dolly Parton said, “There’s only three real female singers: Barbara Streisand, Linda Ronstadt, and Connie Smith. The rest of us are only pretending.” Connie Smith (Constance June Meador) was born into a poor family with 14 children in Hinton, WV. She remembers saying at age 5, “Someday I’m gonna sing on the Grand Ole Opry,” a childhood prediction that came true in spades. In 1963, she won an Ohio talent contest that brought her to the attention of singer-songwriter Bill Anderson, who persuaded her to come to Nashville. Chet Atkins at RCA Records signed her the following year.

Smith’s first single, “Once a Day,” written by Anderson, went to No. 1 on the country charts and remained there for eight consecutive weeks. She became a fixture on the charts with hits including “If I Talk To Him,” “The Hurtin’s All Over,” and “Ain’t Love a Good Thing.”

Overall, Smith has garnered 11 Grammy award nominations, 20 Top Ten Billboard country singles, and 31 charting albums, three of which have hit No. 1. Country superstardom has held little interest for Smith, and when she switched to Columbia Records in 1973, she insisted that she be allowed to record one gospel album a year. Connie Smith was inducted into the WV Music Hall of Fame in 2011.

Bill Withers
Born and raised in Slab Fork, WV, Bill Withers’ status as a favorite son of the Mountain State is unparalleled. West Virginia’s most successful songwriter, he composed and sang some of the most durable songs of the last half century, including “Use Me,” “Ain’t No Sunshine,” and “Lean on Me,” which recalled his coal camp beginnings. In 1981, he and Grover Washington Jr. scored the massive Grammy-winning hit “Just the Two of Us.” Artists who have recorded Withers’ songs include Mick Jagger, Carmen McCrae, Diana Ross, Barbra Streisand, Michael Jackson, Liza Minnelli, Aretha Franklin, and Johnny Mathis.

Withers has nine Grammy nominations and a Grammy Hall of Fame induction for “Lean on Me.” Withers says that growing up in West Virginia was like living in Dickens’ songs. “Sleepin’ at the foot of the bed was a reality for a lot of us. Your sister had Raggedy Ann [doll]. And ‘Bird of Paradise’ was almost a quote from your favorite uncle [when] his feelings got hurt.” Withers’ track on The Rhinestone Hillbilly, “(You’ve Been Quite a Doll) Raggedy Ann,” marks his first recording in decades, a welcome return. Bill Withers was inducted into the WV Music Hall of Fame in 2007, the same year as Little Jimmy Dickens.