A selection of my radio work. Be sure to listen, rather than read, for the full effect!
“Making Faces: Behind A Face Jug’s Grin Lies A Long, Dark History“ (West Virginia Public Broadcasting)
This story starts in a Shinnston, West Virginia basement before taking us aboard the United States’ last-ever slave ship and into the potteries of the pre-War South, before finally meeting a Black potter who is keeping the sacred face jug tradition alive.
“Charleston’s Hottest Lunch Is A Spicy Eastern European Stew“ (West Virginia Public Broadcasting)
How a plan to use up tasty (but ugly) fish scraps turned into a local Lenten staple.
“Celebrating W.Va.’s Rail History On A One-87th Scale“ (West Virginia Public Broadcasting)
This ain’t your grandfather’s model train set — unless your grandfather is a member of the Kanawha Valley Railroad Association.
“Toy Story Gets A Much Anticipated Sequel“ (West Virginia Public Broadcasting)
Steve and Ellie Conlon did not know who would run their folk toy company after they died. But thanks to a Hallmark-worthy twist of fate, it’s now in the hands of a local man who has fond memories of the toys they made.
“Wheeling Is Crazy For Cold Cheese Pizza. But Which Restaurant Serves The Best Slice?“ (West Virginia Public Broadcasting)
Take a trip to the Ohio Valley for a taste of the region’s unique pizza tradition.
“Traditional Murder Ballads Reveal A Dark Truth About ‘True Crime’ Media“ (West Virginia Public Broadcasting)
Why are women always being murdered in bluegrass songs? I tried to find out.
“A Guitar Surgeon Gives Old Instruments Their Voices Back“ (West Virginia Public Broadcasting)
Bob Smakula has a very particular set of skills. “I’ve definitely honed my skills to try to be invisible,” he told me. “I don’t want anybody to know I was ever there.”
“A Taste Of Home — How Pinto Beans And Cornbread Became An Appalachian Tradition“ (West Virginia Public Broadcasting)
In which I set out to learn about pinto beans and cornbread and wind up discovering something about my own family and its traditions.
“A Champion Guitar Player Continues the Family Legacy While Handing the Music Down“ (West Virginia Public Broadcasting)
My story about Clark Kessinger, an old-time fiddler who made a career, lost it, then found it and lost it again. But he influenced his young nephew Robin, who has made a career as a guitar player and teacher.
“At This W.Va. Steelpan Drum Company, A Visionary’s Beat Goes On“ (West Virginia Public Broadcasting)
It takes about 40 hours of hammering to turn a steel drum into a steelpan drum. And believe it or not, this transformation takes place in an old storefront in Osage, West Virginia, population 395. This is the home of Mannette Musical Instruments, maker of world-renowned steelpan drums.
“Welder Keeps Old Clocks Ticking“ (West Virginia Public Broadcasting)
Carl Witt turned his grandfather’s old horse barn into a shop where he carefully repairs springs, gears and bearings in old clocks to get them running again. It’s a craft he learned from Charles Decker, a master clock repairman who also became Witt’s dear friend.
“Retired Miner Makes Traditional Cream Pull Candy“ (West Virginia Public Broadcasting)
Traditional Appalachian pull candy — sometimes called cream pull candy or Kentucky pull candy — is known for two things: its buttery, melt-in-your mouth flavor and the painstaking process required to make the stuff. In this story, we tag along as retired coal miner Joe Parcell makes a batch, just as he’s been doing for the last 20 years.
“Friends And Family Remember Russell Yann, Iconic Owner Of Fairmont Hotdog Hotspot“ (West Virginia Public Broadcasting)
Yann’s Hotdogs in Fairmont, West Virginia has a huge, devoted following. But if you wanted a dog from Russell Yann — the iconic restaurant’s equally iconic owner, who died on Jan. 15, 2021 — there were some rules to follow.
“Marmet’s Yellow Slaw Offers a Tasty Twist on the Standard West Virginia Hot Dog“ (West Virginia Public Broadcasting)
If you go to a West Virginia restaurant and order a hot dog with “everything,” most of the time you’ll end up with the same thing: a weenie in a bun topped with a beef-based chili (no beans), mayonnaise-based coleslaw, diced onion and mustard.
Except in the little town of Marmet, West Virginia, about 10 miles outside the state capital. Here the slaw is yellow — because it’s made with mustard, sugar and apple cider vinegar, not mayonnaise. This lends the dog a complex sweet and tangy flavor.
“A Family Cultivates Tradition With A Nearly-forgotten Tomato“ (West Virginia Public Broadcasting)
When Mary Lou Estler married her late husband Bob in 1960, it wasn’t long before she was introduced to a priceless family heirloom — an heirloom tomato.
NOTE: Here’s an update to this story from May 2021.
“New River Gorge Rock Climbers Grapple With Racist Route Names“ (West Virginia Public Broadcasting)
In summer 2020, the world of rock climbing began working to change racist and otherwise offensive rock climbing route names. This story follows how that work played out in West Virginia’s New River Gorge.
NOTE: We published an update to this story in September 2021.
“Wetzel County Workshop Keeps Folk Toys Alive” (West Virginia Public Broadcasting)
If Santa’s workshop lived deep in the West Virginia woods, it would probably look a lot like Steve and Ellie Conlon’s Mountain Craft Shop Co.
“W.Va. Campground Preserving Appalachian-Born Style Of Sacred Music That Is Quickly Being Forgotten“ (West Virginia Public Broadcasting)
There’s a place in southern West Virginia that many consider holy ground. For nearly 70 years, gospel music fans have gathered on this mountaintop just south of Summersville Lake for weekend concerts featuring singers from all over West Virginia and its surrounding states.