Category Archives: Lee Maynard

Pops Walker, in memorium

Sad news to report for the West Virginia Writers family. WVW co-founder Kirk Judd has reported on Facebook that Pops Walker died on October 29, at his home in Luray, Virginia, surrounded by friends and family. Pops was a dear friend of West Virginia Writers, myself, and of this podcast in particular.

Pops was an amazing guy and so very supportive of the music community throughout the region and beyond.  He was also just a downright fantastic musician in his own right.

I came to know Pops in 2007 when he attended the West Virginia Writers Summer Conference as the main musical entertainment for Saturday night, as well as participating in a couple of workshops. However, I think Pops was there to hang out with Lee Maynard. Not long before the conference, the audiobook adaptation of Lee's book Crum had been released by Ross Ballard through his Mountain Whispers Audiobooks. Pops provided the music for the project and released a separate album called The Crum Session. For the 2007 conference, Lee, Pops and Ross were in attendance and we got to hear some of that adaptation live, as well as the three of them in a workshop speaking about the collaboration process. Pops concert on Saturday is among my all time favorite musical concerts, conference or no. His performances were so much fun to watch, partly due to the quality of the music, but also for the energy with which Pops attacked his work, seemingly devouring the notes from the air and grinding them in his grinning teeth.

After I told him how much fun I'd had watching him, he replied, "Nobody has as much fun at my show as I do. They might be having as much fun as me, but no one's having more."

That conference also marked the first time that Lee and Pops teamed up for what would become regular reading/music combo concerts for them, with Lee reading from his work accompanied by Pops on guitar. To say it was magical is an understatement. Lee and Pops, who had only just met, quickly became fast friends and remained so until Lee's passing in 2017. (Pops spoke about their friendship in a memorial podcast to Lee, which was the last new episode produced here.)  They would re-team for similar combos in 2011 as well.

Pops was gracious enough to return to the conference on two more occasions, and he always brought friends who quickly became new favorite musicians. In 2008, he brought West Virginia musicians Keith and Joan Pitzer, who were wonderful. And in 2010 he brought musical protégé Kipyn Martin Kae. They joined the West Virginia Writers family of musicians and fit right in.

When the idea first occurred to me to produce a podcast for West Virginia Writers, in 2009, I knew whose music I wanted to use as the theme song. I contacted Pops and he gave me permission to use any of his music that I wanted. His only requirement was that I needed to send him copies of the show on CD, because his internet in Luray was too slow for downloading them. It was one of the best deals I ever made, as Pops' music was a large part of making the show sound as good as it did. I chose his instrumental "Southeastern" as the podcast theme. Pops said he wrote that tune to sound like what might happen if Ravi Shankar and Greg Allman were to collide with one another while carrying stringed instruments. An apt description if there ever was one.

In 2012, I was invited to help plan the first Lewisburg Literary Festival. My first proposal was to bring in Lee and Pops for one of their combo concerts, and for Pops to be part of the festival entertainment on his own. They readily agreed, since they always like an excuse to hang out with one another. That summer we had their tag-team magic recreated on the stage of the historic Lewis Theater. Not only that, but Lee did a live reading of the infamous apple slice chapter from Crum, which was a piece he said he had never read live before. Truth be told, he was nervous about it, and had asked me in advance if I thought the audience might rebel. I explained that we were a literary festival first and foremost and the written word was something we celebrated, even if that word might potentially offend. We were pretty sure our audience would be up for it. They absolutely were. And, of course, Pops brought a guest musician to help out in the form of Kipyn Martin Kae, who the audience fell in love with as well. They joined one another for Pops' concert that night. Pops even played "Southeastern" for me.

Pops and his wife Bobbi liked to give back to the music community and I was honored to be able to attend two of the Shenandoah River Song Fests which they hosted near their home in Luray. These were tented concerts on the banks of the Shenandoah River itself, during which music lovers from all walks of life gathered to camp for three days punctuated by catered food cooked right there on the riverbank, libations, and, of course, music by an assembly of musicians. My CD collection grew with each festival, and it was always great to see familiar faces take the stage there, from Kipyn to the Pitzer Family, to WVW friends Doug and Telisha Williams' band Wild Ponies, and new faces like Beaucoup Blue. It was so much fun to experience these bands he'd curated, who jammed together as easily as they played their own wonderful tunes, You could also see the love Pops had for them. These were his friends he was showing off to the world, celebrating their talent and joining their with his own brand of what he called Southern Fried Zen Mojo.

During the last fest I was able to attend, in 2014, we were treated to another Pops/Lee Maynard combo show, as Lee was in attendance as well. It would unfortunately mark the last time I would to see both Lee and Pops in person.

Pops was not only a musical contributor, but the show's most frequent guest. Unfortunately, two of his three appearances were memorials to friends who had passed. The first was for Keith Pitzer, who had passed in 2010. And his second appearance was the last episode I produced, a tribute by Pops to his friend Lee Maynard, who passed in 2017.

If you've not heard them, I encourage you to listen to the Pops Walker podcasts, or revisit them if you've heard them before. Most of all, though, I encourage you to listen to his music. Two of his albums, Milepost 5, Live `N Drivin On, and The Crum Session can be found at Amazon. You can also find Pops work on the Crum audiobook as well as its sequel Screaming With the Cannibals courtesy of Mountain Whispers, also available via Amazon. You can also find Pops' book of essays, The Existential Redneck as an ebook for Amazon/Kindle.

Pops Walker's like will not be known again, but those of us who got to know him even a little bit are the better for it.

You can read Pops' obituary here. In lieu of flowers memorial contributions can be made to Page Alliance for Community Action.

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“Shenandoah River Songfest May, 2012” a poem by Lee Maynard

 

Music

They came for the music

They were not a collection of strangers

They were not strangers at all,

A small gathering made known to each other

Returning again and again

Over the years

Returning through their love for each other

And by their yearning for the music

And that made them family

Day laborers

Artists

Amateur cooks better than any professionals

Nurses

Lawyers

Writers

People who knew how to frame a house

People who knew how to command armies

And did

Soldiers then

Soldiers now

And still others of unknown skill and wisdom

There was no common age

No common dress

No common way of life

No common way of thinking

There was only their common want for the music

And the uncommon current of their laughter

They sat in shade and sun and heat and rain,

Not caring about what was happening in any world

Of their knowing

Except this one

Here

Now

By the river in the sun

For one bright weekend they sat beneath giant trees

Made large by the flow from a crystal river

Made emerald by the sun

They sat on lush grass

Beside babies sleeping on blankets

Cushioned by the beating heart of Earth,

Knowing that all babies, somewhere, sometime,

Should sleep next to the soft pulse of Mother

The rain

Gentle, caressing

And then more insistent,

Drumming softly and rhythmically on the canopies,

The sound an underlying applause beneath the music   Sent from some higher place to please and compliment The musicians

There was no wind, the rain coming straight and true

To the people and the music

As the music came straight and true

The music

The music was clean, clear and cleansing

It stirred the souls of any within hearing

There were no lights, no costumes, no flashes of emptiness    Having nothing to do with music

This was pure music, picked from mystic strings,

Tumbling down into the people as from some garden

Of pure joy

Sung by voices unheard in concert halls

Sung by voices unchanged by any artificial hand of man

The players ended their playing and then sat with the audience

The musicians were the listeners

The listeners were the musicians

There were no opening acts

No stars following

All were stars

All shone

The music began midday,

Ending when sheer exhaustion called a halt

And people dozed against each other's shoulders

But one day was not enough.

Some came early, the night before

More coming each year

Gathering around an open fire

The music coming as it would

The talk filling the open spaces

The last day came and went

And still a tiny group lingered,

The family smaller, now,

Sitting almost quietly in the warmth

Of another bright morning

Unwilling to let it go

Unwilling to let it end

The music

By the river

LM

 

 

 

 

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Uncle Terry’s Gift Ideas from WV Authors List 2015

Nigh on a decade ago, Terry McNemar, our former president who recently passed away, began an annual gift guide for books by West Virginia authors.  The last time we ran one on this blog, however, was 2011.  With his passing this year, we felt it was time to re-institute this annual tradition in his honor.  And as such, it's only fitting that Terry's books are #1 and #2 on the list.

So while you’re doing your holiday shopping, don’t forget to support these WV Writer, Inc. authors. And don’t forget to stop at your local bookstores: Tamarack, Taylor Books in Charleston, Empire Books & News in Huntington, the Open Book in Lewisburg, Four Seasons Books in Shepherdstown, Vandalia Press, Main Line Books in Elkins, …to name just a few.  Those are great places where you might find these books!

If you are a member of West Virginia Writers and your book is not listed here, please send it in immediately and we will get you added to the list.  Send those to wvwriterssecretary@gmail.com.  You may also send links to your own website.  We'll be happy to post them as well.

Thanks.

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WVW Podcast: Lee Maynard Recorded Live Reading

Our 6th WVW Podcast Bonus Show is now online. It features a recorded live reading from Lee Maynard's appearance at the WV Book Festival, in October. Mr. Maynard reads the first chapter of his new novel-in-memoir-form The Pale Light of Sunset: Scattershots and Hallucinations in an Imagined Life, published by West Virginia University Press.

Be sure to also check out Episodes 21 and 22 for parts 1 and 2 of our podcast of the conversation between Lee and Cat Pleska.

Get the Lee Maynard Recorded Live Reading HERE.

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Podcast Episode 21: A conversation with Lee Maynard

Episode 21 of the WVW Podcast is now available, featuring a conversation between WV Writers 1st Vice President Cat Pleska and Lee Maynard, author of the book Crum, its followup Screaming with the Cannibals and the new novel-in-memoir-form The Pale Light of Sunset: Scattershots and Hallucinations in an Imagined Life, published by West Virginia University Press.

As those of you who've attended Lee's workshops at previous WV Writers Summer Conferences well know, he's an extremely talented writer who specializes in gut-level writing. This week's part of the conversation explores some of that as well as his writing discipline, his philosophy on truth in memoir vs. storytelling and his feelings about West Virginia.

Hear it for yourself at our PODCAST PAGE.

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