Inside Appalachia Remembers "Mother of Folk", and Union Miners Rally to Save Coal Jobs

Jun 5, 2015

This week, we remember Jean Ritchie, who's been called the mother of Appalachian folk music.

One of her most well known songs, “The L and N Don’t Stop Here Anymore”, is about a topic that still pulls at many Appalachian heartstrings- the shrinking of coalfield towns, of families struggling to hold on, as more and more coal jobs are slipping away. And we'll get to know a new Appalachian voice: 15-year-old Dawn Jewell. She's the main character in a new illustrated novel, called Trampoline, by Kentucky author Robert Gipe.

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Inside Appalachia Remembers Jean Ritchie, “Mother of Folk”

On this week’s show, we remember Jean Ritchie, who died on June 1st at her home in Kentucky at the age of 92. Jean Ritchie carried hundreds of songs in her head, and she used her crystal-clear voice to introduce those songs to hundreds of thousands of listeners.

Ritchie was a teacher, record label owner and instrument maker who helped popularize traditional music from Appalachia.We'll hear a report from NPR's Mandalit del Barco sent us a story about Ritchie's legacy.

Appalachian Lawmakers Introduce Bill That Could Back Environmental Regulations

Recently, federal lawmakers introduced legislation meant to roll back Obama’s clean power plan. West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin was one of the only initial Democratic representatives to sponsor the bill introduced by Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito. Other Appalachian leaders sponsoring the bill include Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul from Kentucky, Roger Wicker of Mississippi, Lamar Alexander from Tennessee, and Tom Tillis of North Carolina.

UMWA Rallies Members Against EPA, Obama’s Clean Power Plan

The bill is known as the Affordable Reliable Energy Now Act, and it's getting rallying support from the United Mine Workers of America.

UMWA President Cecil Roberts
Credit Jesse Wright / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

UMWA president Cecil Roberts encouraged members to support these efforts at a meeting in Morgantown earlier this week. Roberts says the union will fight the Federal Environmental Protection Agency to keep miners employed. Jesse Wright reports from a recent rally

What’s in a Name… Gip, West Virginia

This week we’ll go to a tiny town in Braxton County, West Virginia. The town of Gip has several stories, but resident Betty Rivard tells us the name originates from a case of mistaken identity.

If you have another story about Gip or know of another place in Appalachia with an interesting sound or mysterious folklore behind it, send us a tweet @InAppalachia #WhatsinaName.

An Ice Mine in the Summer?

Temperatures this spring might have felt more like summer sometimes-but at one spot in Pennsylvania, higher temperatures mean more ice. The Allegheny Front's Kara Holsopple takes us to the Coudersport Ice Mine in Potter County. It's a museum and natural wonder that opened last year after 25 years of being in disrepair.

Appalachia's Own Holden Caulfield Emerges in New Illustrated Novel

Illustration from Trampoline
Credit Robert Gipe

Dawn is a fictional character in Robert Gipe's debut novel, Trampoline. The book has dazzled Appalachian authors like Silas House and Ann Pancake. Author and illustrator Robert Gipe created Dawn Jewell nine years ago after attending the Hindman Writer's Workshop. He decided to buy two notebooks and try to fill them with writing over a weekend. He holed away inside a hotel and filled those notebooks with sketches and ideas about Dawn. Click here to read the rest of this interview with author Robert Gipe.

Illustration from Trampoline
Credit Robert Gipe

Music in today’s show was provided by Andy Agnew Jr., Jean Ritchie, Jake Schepps, Joe Henry, Black Flag, Whiskeytown, and our What’s in a Name theme music is by

Jean Ritchie, Picture of Jean Ritchie after a performance at the Carnegie Lecture Hall in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on April 26, 2008.
Credit Leepaxton at English Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons

Marteka and William with “Johnson Ridge Special” from their album Songs of a Tradition. Special thanks for the Florida Folklife Collection and to the Alan Lomax Collection at the American Folklife Center and the Library of Congress, for their archived recordings of Jean Ritchie. The Association for Cultural Equity helps archive all of Lomax’s recordings, but they’re working to release them to libraries and archives in Kentucky later this year. 

You can e-mail us at feedback@wvpublic.org. Find us on Twitter @InAppalachia or @WVJessicaYLilly.