Randy Yohe Published

W.Va. Music Hall Of Fame 2023 Inductees Cover Genre Spectrum

Two Black men from the 1980s in stage clothes.
Fuzzy Haskins and Calvin Simons from Parliament-Funkadelic.
West Virginia Music Hall of Fame

This Saturday, the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame will induct its class of 2023. Ranging from pine fiddles to P-funk, this is an eclectic group of Mountain State musicians.  

West Virginia Music Hall of Fame Director Michael Lipton said this year’s class showcases the breadth of West Virginia musicians spanning the genre spectrum.

“This is not necessarily by design,” Lipton said. “It just happens because everybody who votes has different tastes and there’s so many different types and styles of artists that have come from West Virginia.” 

Classical pianist Barbara Nissman has lived in Lewisburg the past 30 years. Lipton said this “West Virginian by choice” has performed with Don Henley, Billy Joel, along with the world’s major philharmonic orchestras. 

“She’s one of the greatest classical pianists in the world,” Lipton said. “She’s a very powerful, persuasive performer. She’s worked with Leonard Slatkin, and Horowitz and Eugene Ormandy, and she’s also become good friends with Chick Corea and Keith Emerson.” 

The other end of the spectrum includes the late Fuzzy Haskins of McDowell County and the late Calvin Simons from Beckley, founding members of the seminal funk band Parliament-Funkadelic. Lipton said the pair met as teenagers after both migrated from southern West Virginia to Plainfield, New Jersey. 

“They met in the late 1950s,” Lipton said. “They started hanging around George Clinton’s barbershop, the Pink Palace. There were singers and players hanging out there. Clinton, Haskins and Simons formed this ‘doowop’ group called The Parliaments.”

The Parliaments evolved into an outrageously dressed, horn-laden band with 15 or so members at a time – redefined as Parliament-Funkadelic. Their definitive album, “Mothership Connection” has a Black man in a high-heeled space suit flying through the galaxy on the cover. The album introduced the world to “P-funk, the uncut funk, the bomb!” and cemented Parliament-Funkadelic as one of the key funk bands of the late 20th century. 

“They got into this kind of outer space thing with the mothership and all of that,” Lipton said. “Someone asked George Clinton, how did that come about? He goes, ‘Well, I was thinking, where’s the last place you’d expect to find a Black person – outer space? So that’s how.”

Haskins’ son, musician and Bible study teacher Nowell Scott, will accept the Hall of Fame award for his father. Scott grew up with the P-funk. He said his father and music went together from the beginning.

“His musical background has just always been probably 90 percent fun and 10 percent gift and talent.” Scott said. “To just enjoy life and the rest will come. That’s always been his formula, and that’s what he’s always shared with me.”

Scott said a person’s interplanetary funksmanship (how one carries themself) can consolidate Black culture, P-funk and the gospel. 

“With ‘Mothership Connection,’ they gave their opinion of the time,” Scott said. “They were culturally relevant and pushed the boundary of thought. But there’s one source for A-funk, B-funk, C-funk all the way to P-funk, there’s one source, and that is G-O-D.”

Other 2023 West Virginia Music Hall of Fame inductees include Mingo and Mercer county bluegrass pioneers the Lonesome Pine Fiddlers.

“They were one of the very early bluegrass groups before it was really even called bluegrass,” Lipton said. “The band became kind of a proving ground for a lot of artists that went on to have their own careers like Bobby Osborne and Paul Williams, and the Goins Brothers.”

Also going into the Hall of Fame, Charleston’s Winston Walls, known as “King of the Hammond B-3 Organ.”

“He was one of the greatest Hammond players in the world,” Lipton said. “He would go on the road doing battle of the organs with Groove Holmes, Jack MacDuff and Jimmy Smith, and those are about as good as it gets. He was the first guy to have George Benson in his band.”

The West Virginia Music Hall of Fame will also welcome Richwood’s “bluegrass doctor,” multi-instrumentalist Buddy Griffin.

“Buddy still lives in West Virginia and is a much loved musician who has played on over 200 records and made over 200 appearances on the Grand Ole Opry,” Lipton said.  

The annual ceremony comes in the form of a concert on June 3 at the Charleston Culture Center Theater. The show will be streamed live on West Virginia Public Broadcasting TV and YouTube at 7:30 p.m.