Friday, May 23, 2008

Putnam County Pickers


I was sorting through some old files and ran across this photo from the early 1980s. If you lived near Charleston in the 70's and early 80's, you remember the Putnam County Pickers. This was when they were doing a concert with the Symphony and they were in the studio to get a portrait in tuxedos and (as I often did in those days) at the end of the session I told them to stick their fingers in their noses. Funnily enough, people often did it and then were surprised when I actually took the photo. This one took on special meaning because of their group name and they ended up using it on a poster later.

14 comments:

Bob Coffield said...

Great shot Rick! I had fun showing it to my kids this morning who know Ron Sowell (far right) from school. Ron is the music director at Mountaineer Montessori here in Charleston. For those readers with kids -- check out Ron's album, Opposite Day. It's at the top of the list for music in our house.

For your national readers -- Ron also heads up the Mountain Stage Band. Mountain Stage is one of West Virginia's best kept secrets. It's where the musicians come to play. The show is broadcast through West Virginia Public Radio. If you want to enjoy the sounds coming from West Virginia along with Rick's photos -- check out the broadcast in your area. I'm looking forward to the live show set for FestivALL week.

Who are the other members? Is that Steve Hill in the back? Not sure whether he was a member or not. Any shots of Stark Raven.

Rick Lee said...

Thanks for the extra history Bob. The players from L to R are, Ahmed Solomon, Steve Hill, John Kessler, and Ron Sowell.

Stanton said...

Thanks, Rick, for the blast from the past!

That shot was used for the poster for "The Last Picker Show" which was to be their final concert together. The show sold out the Civic Center Little Theater and they had to add a second night to accommodate all of the "Picker Heads" who wanted to see them one last time.

I was on the front row the second night. It was a fabulous show. They announced at the time that they videotaping the show and offering the videos for sale, but at that time only rich folks had VCRs so I didn't buy one. Years later I ran into John Kessler and asked him if he had a videotape of the show and he told me that the quality was so bad that they only made a few. Pity.

That was a great little band that played really great music.

Rick Lee said...

Yeah, we all thought they would break out nationally but it just never happened. I hadn't thought about Kessler in a long time so I Googled him just now and found out that he's working at a public radio station in Seattle. I guess that's why I haven't seen him around lately. :-)

Bob Coffield said...

Thanks for the additional names Rick. Didn't recognize Ahmed. For those unfamiliar with Moutain Stage. Both Ahmed and Steve Hill are also part of the Moutain Stage band along with Ron Sowell. They are still making great music and get to play with the best musicians around the world who come to play at Mountain Stage.

Anna said...

Boy, I bet they can pick em!

I have never hear of them but I am probably showing my age. I was battling my middle school years in the 80's!

J. Keeling said...

How 'bout a reunion concert?

I'm particularly intrigued by this shot, for several reasons. First off, I love acoustic and folk type music, and secondly, as a Putnam County native born in 1977, I wasn't even aware the group existed. From what I gather, they must have sounded pretty good, and the shot is perfect. Surely some readers know Ron Sowell and Larry Groce, let's petition Mountain Stage for a reunion concert.

Rick Lee said...

Jason, I was rather surprised to find that practically nothing showed up when I Googled "Putnam County Pickers". This group was a huge phenomenon in this region and touched the lives of a lot of people around here. As you can see from the line-up, the guys are still very influential musicians in this area. There were a few other members earlier on, but these are the 4 I remember most. Sandy Sowell also sang with the Pickers for a while and she is still well-known in this area with her various businesses. I think a reunion show would be a great idea.

eton crowe said...

The original Putnam County Pickers were Ron Sowell, Sandy Sowell, Steve Hill, Bobbie Hill, Michael Ivey and Bob Webb around 1973. Around 1975 it was Ron Sowell, Sandy Sowell, Steve Hill, Rusty Wells and myself, Greg Harman with Bobbie Hill as the sound tech. A year later Sandy left the group for medical reasons. Ron, Steve, Rusty and myself played together until roughly 1979 when Ahmed replaced me and John replaced Rusty. That also ended the four part harmony which was the band's signature sound in the 1970's.

bhmbill2002 said...

The 70s were a great time to be in Charleston, Joi, The Putnam County Pickers, Bob Thompson and others.
A vist by the red Clay Ramblers once in a while.
If you can catch us up on joi and Bob Thompson that would be fun too.

dakman said...

Dear Mr. Lee:
I was not a resident of Charleston or Putnam County in the 70s,80s or ever, but I did get a big kick out of your picture. I saw this entertaining group perform a number of times at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown (I was there from 1975-1979) at a venue on the southern end of the campus near the ski slope called "The Log Cabin". Great fun and great times. I only recently realized that Putnam County was in W. Va. while trying to connect with an old friend from my UPJ years who I believe lives in your region. Thank you.

R said...

Thanks for a reminder of a very good musical time. As much as I enjoyed the Pickers, and later on, Starkraven, I'd love to have had a recording of the in-between band, Rhino Moon, with Steve, John, and Ahmed. A loud version of Hundred Million Reasons, Rudy's Restless, and one about, I think, the end of the world ("the shell is cracked, the egg is broken" is all I remember almost 30 years later).

Thanks again for a reminder of my favorite musicians of the early 80's.

R said...

Thanks for a reminder of a very good musical time. As much as I enjoyed the Pickers, and later on, Starkraven, I'd love to have had a recording of the in-between band, Rhino Moon, with Steve, John, and Ahmed. A loud version of Hundred Million Reasons, Rudy's Restless, and one about, I think, the end of the world ("the shell is cracked, the egg is broken" is all I remember almost 30 years later).

Thanks again for a reminder of my favorite musicians of the early 80's.

Mark and Pat said...

Per Sandy Sowell, the Pickers are doing a one time Reunion in Charleston August 23, 2013 for Live on The Levee.

A CD complication from their 2 LP's is now available "Good As New!" Fun to hear again after all these years. Contact Sandy in Charleston, WV for a copy.