This week on Inside Appalachia we pay tribute to fiddler Joe Dobbs, who passed away September 21st at the age of 81. For 25 years he hosted a radio show, called Music From the Mountains, on West Virginia Public Broadcasting.
Joe Dobbs dedicated his life to giving voice to Appalachian musicians who otherwise might not ever be heard outside of their community. He owned the Fret n Fiddle music store in St. Albans, West Virginia. He helped form the band, The 1937 Flood, which plays traditional West Virginia tunes, as well as rag time, swing, and jug band music.
There are other programs on the radio that feature Appalachian music, at least from time to time, like Mountain Stage with Larry Groce. But Groce says nobody's doing the kind of show Joe Dobbs did, and he hopes someone will.
"I wish somebody would pick up the torch that Joe carried. Maybe some young person," said Groce. "Because it’s very important now, if not more important than ever. It’s got to be someone who has the mission, like Joe did. He had the mission to expose this kind of music and just to have fun with it, in the spirit of old time radio shows where people came in and just played some music."
Joe Dobbs was born in Mississippi and raised in Louisiana. But he got a job selling records for a Nashville company that sent him to West Virginia. In his autobiography, A Country Fiddler, Joe Dobbs recalls loving the mountains and the people of West Virginia. He said they were "my kind of folks". He moved to West Virginia permanently in 1967. Dobbs wrote that "it was the first time I had felt at home. For the first time in my life, when we would take a trip, I experienced the feeling of wanting to be home. I often tell people, 'I wasn’t born in West Virginia, but I got here as soon as I could.'”
Joe Dobbs’ longtime friend, Bobby Taylor, said up until the end of his life Dobbs had a never ending passion for learning new tunes on the fiddle.