Magoffin’s Musical Legacy

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Magoffin County is rich in the treasury of her musical heritage. One of her most important but lesser known contributions to society is in her enormous musical legacy. A number of highly regarded musicians have called Magoffin County home and we should be proud of that fact. 

In 1937, an American folklorist and musicologist named Alan Lomax recorded the music of old-time fiddler William Hamilton Stepp on acetate preserving for posterity the music of one of America’s great fiddlers. Though born in Lee County Stepp moved to Magoffin as a young man where he probably picked up his style of fiddling from an old-time fiddle player named Patrick Risner who also mentored Willie Fletcher and John Salyer. Stepp collaborated with May Puckett on a number of songs. Aaron Copeland used one of Stepp’s tunes in his ballet Rodeo.

Buell Hilton Kazee, a minister regarded for his folk music, was born on Burton’s Fork and attended Magoffin Baptist Institute and Georgetown Collage. Between 1927 and 1930 Kazee recorded fifty-two songs for Brunswick and Vocalion in New York as well as songs for Columbia Records in Tennessee. Kazee authored two books and taught at Lexington Baptist Collage. Kazee had a trained voice but his fame came from singing in his natural high mountain sound and his unique Claw Hammer banjo playing.

Charlie Sizemore was raised on Puncheon Creek and is a preeminent Bluegrass singer, songwriter, and guitarist. Charlie showed talent from an early age learning to play the fiddle by age six. Charlie replaced Keith Whitley as lead vocalist for Ralph Stanley at only sixteen years of age staying with Ralph nearly ten years bespeaking his considerable talent. After leaving Ralph Charlie formed his own acclaimed band. Charlie has been a champion for education raising tens of thousands of dollars for scholarships for students attending BSCTC in Prestonsburg. 

Country-pop singer Rebecca Lynn Howard grew up in Salyersville and began her career as a song writer and went on to record as an artist. Rebecca has won two Grammy awards. She has charted seven singles on the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts, and has released three studio albums.  

These are by no means the only talents produced in Magoffin or that have strong connections to it. From my great grandfather George Risner who’s repertoire included more than five hundred Ballads to Patty Loveless who has roots imbedded here the true number would fill pages.