Legends come out in droves for announcement of 2025 inductees into the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame

By Matthew Young, RealWV

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – A who’s who of the state’s finest musicians took over Charleston’s Capitol Market on Sunday afternoon, for the West Virginia’ Music Hall of Fame’s (WVMHOF) “Garden Party 10.” 

The event – which featured live performances from Josh Pantry, Parachute Brigade, The Carpenter Ants with Mary Hott, and living legend John Ellison – served three distinct purposes: to raise funds for the WVMHOF, to introduce a new audience to the endless talent of West Virginia’s musicians, and to announce the inductees to the Hall of Fame’s class of 2025. 

Shortly before 3 p.m., with the sky blue and the temperature nearing 80 degrees, WVMHOF Director Michael Lipton took the stage to announce those inductees. 

“Jeff Stevens,” was the first name Lipton announced. “I’m sure many of you remember the Stevens Brothers Band. They were fixtures around town, and even then it was obvious that the group was destined for success on a larger stage.”

“Jeff is a multi-platinum singer, songwriter, and producer,” Lipton continued. “His career officially started at age nine, when he and his brother Warren entered a talent contest and won first place. Eventually the brothers, and cousin Terry Dotson, formed Jeff Stevens and the Bullets. That group signed to Atlantic Records.”

The band got their start in Alum Creek, W.Va., in 1975. Early on, Jeff Stevens & the Bullets opened shows for such legendary performers as George Jones, Tammy Wynette, and Johnny Cash. The band called it a day in 1990, and Stevens continued on writing hit songs for Alabama, John Anderson, Tim McGraw, and others. 

Jupie Little of the Carpenter and (left) and John Ellison (right) during Garden Party 10 at the Capitol Market, April 14. Photo by Matthew Young, RealWV.

The Valentinos, also known as The Womack Brothers, were the next inductees to be announced. Brothers Curtis Womack, Bobby Womack, Harry Womack, Cecil Womack, and Friendly Womack, Jr., made up the legendary band. 

“The Womack Family is one of West Virginia’s most important musical dynasties,” Lipton said. “While Cleveland-born Bobby is the most famous – he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2009 – the family hails from Northfork in McDowell County.”

“The Valentinos were a Cleveland-based R&B group, who recorded from the late-60’s until the mid-70’s,” Lipton continued. “They started singing at their father, Pastor Friendly Womack, Sr.’s church. Then they toured with the Staple Singers, and they had to stand on boxes to reach the microphones because they didn’t want to adjust the microphones between sets.”

The brothers’ 1962 hit, “Lookin’ for a Love,” led to their selection as the opener for James Brown and the Famous Flames American tour. Shortly after, Bobby Womack began touring with Sam Cooke as a backup guitarist. Cooke later signed the brothers to his record label.

Lipton next announced the forthcoming posthumous induction of Charleston-born Cameron LaVelle Mullins. 

“Cam was a multi-instrumentalist, arranger, composer, and conductor,” Lipton said. “His arrangement of clients in West Virginia is a long list, so I’ll only read part of it so you get to see what a heavyweight he was.”

“Clients include West Virginia Music Hall of Fame Inductee Connie Smith,” Lipton continued, “Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Jerry Lee Lewis, Joan Baez, Bobby Fenton, Al Hirt, Dick Fontaine, Brenda Lee, Perry Cuomo, Chet Atkins, J.J. Cale, Tom T. Hall – and there’s more than that.”

Mullins passed away in 2001 at the age of 72. On hand to express her appreciation for the induction announcement was Mullins’ daughter, Karen. Karen made the trip from Nashville to participate in the day’s festivities.

“[My father] would be extremely proud and honored for this recognition, and so is our family,” Karen said. “West Virginia will always hold a place in my heart.”

The final member of the 2025 class of inductees announced, and also to be inducted posthumously, was Daniel Johnson.

“The short story is Daniel Johnston was a singer, songwriter, and artist, who garnered a strong cult following among alt-and-indie-rock groups and fans,” Lipton said. “As usual, the full story is much more complex.”

“Daniel Johnston was born in Sacramento, California,” Lipton continued, “But his formative years were spent in Chester, West Virginia, in Hancock County. […] In the late-70’s he began recording songs on a boombox.”

A diagnosis of bipolar disorder resulted in Johnston periodically spending prolonged periods in psychiatric institutions, which, as Lipton explained, “Ended up giving his music an innocent and childlike quality.” 

After 10 years spent releasing homemade recordings, Johnston released his first studio album, “1990,” in 1988. Johnson passed away on September 11, 2019, at the age of 58. Johnston is the subject of the 2005 documentary film, “The Devil and Daniel Johnston.”

“Johnston was championed by members of Nirvana, Beck, and Sonic Youth,” Lipton noted. “None other than Kurt Cobain was frequently photographed wearing a t-shirt featuring Johnston’s artwork.” 

The West Virginia Music Hall of Fame will induct its class of 2025, next year on April 12. The ceremony will be held at Charleston’s Culture Center Theatre.

John Ellison, Mary Hott, The Carpenter Ants, and Parachute Brigade perform John Ellison’s classic “Some Kind of Wonderful” during the Garden Party 10 at the Capitol Market in Charleston, on April 14. Photo by Matthew Young, RealWV.

The WVMHOF’s “Garden Party 10” was made possible with the sponsorship of Capitol Ford, DiPiero Simmons McGinley and Bastress PLLC, Steve Williams, Natalie Tennant, Patti Hamilton, WTSQ, and The Capitol Market. Lunch was provided by The Violet Kitchen, in St. Albans. 

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