Remembering Carl Rutherford and War, WV

inUncategorizedon May 6, 2014

RutherfordCarl008Carl Rutherford and Tim Duffy

Coupled with footage of “The L.B.J Poverty Tour” the New York Times recently released an article about McDowell County, the poorest in West Virginia, and the balance between struggle and poverty that has crippled the county’s communities for generations, specifically focusing on the small city of War, West Virginia. The article touches on the after effects of the quick decrease in mountain population as the steady work of coalmines and saw mills slowly declined in the early 1960s. The article paints a dreary and rather hopeless picture, but the depiction is unfortunately quite accurate.

Read the New York Times article here

Not everyone who made it out of McDowell County has turned his or her backs for good. The article does touch on a small professional class of people who have returned to McDowell County for the betterment of the community and to fight for a place they all loved to call home. Florisha McGuire is mentioned in the article, a returned educator spending her time working as a principal of Southside K-8 School. Ms. McGuire is from War, West Virginia, also home to one of the most humble, and spiritually wise artists on the Music Maker roster, Carl Rutherford (1929-2006).


Listen: Carl Rutherford – A Day With A Miner



Carl’s passion for life, his love of music, and his years spent working in and out of the coalmines, all together combine to produce his unique take on the blues appropriately titled “The Miner’s Blues.” This catalog of original songs is rich with American history, providing a unique perspective on the dangerous and grueling work conditions coalminers had endured and come to accept in places like McDowell County:

Lord, Coal Miner, Coal Miner, what you gonna do?

The Company done used you up and

they’re plum through with you.

Coal Miner, I know I got some news for you.

Yea. Coal Miner, Buddy, you’re gonna have

yourself some blues.

There is so much wisdom to be found in Carl’s music. In songs like “You Gotta Turn Off The Fear” Carl describes the dangerous conditions of the mines, and how you have to completely ignore your fears to remain safe (as possible) working as a hand loader in a coalmine. Carl’s songs hint at some of the deeper reasons places like War, and other areas of McDowell County, have arrived to their present economic and social struggles, but those reasons never stopped him from returning to give back to his community.

Carl’s mother was a Muncy. His dad was among the first union organizers in the mines. His wife Frankie grew up there as well and ran a community service center. Though Carl left for a long period, he came back and dedicated his life to his community. He was always sourcing very affordable instruments, strings, and music gear, to spread among the kids that came to his house every week to play music. Music Maker supported Carl and Frankie’s work as much as possible. We were always overwhelmed when we went to visit his town and blown away by Carl’s stories of growing up in War.

Reading the article (link above) hit close to home, as Music Maker is partnering with artists in many of these poverty belts, doing our part to make a difference.

– Tim & Berk

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