Melvin Goins

"Bratia Melvin a Ray Goins hrávali spolu 50 rokov?" That's the sound of the famous Goins Brothers of bluegrass, live in Slovakia, or at least an announcement of said event. That's certainly a few pastures over the hill from playing bluegrass festivals in Kentucky, Tennessee, or North Carolina, but the genre known as bluegrass has been a shot heard round the world in the days since the style was first developed, and the Goins clan has been there pretty much the whole time. Growing up on their family's farm near Bramwell, WV, Melvin and his brother Ray would help work the fields, counting the minutes til they could eat lunch. Neither the break from toil nor the chow represented what they were looking forward to, which was listening to the family's battery-powered radio. According to Melvin, it was a struggle with their father to be granted this reverie, because "he always wanted to make sure the battery was charged up so he could listen to the Grand Ole Opry on Saturday night." As for the brothers, their favorite program was Farm and Fun Time on station WCYB out of Bristol, TN, featuring the best performers of the day such as the Stanley Brothers, Flatt & Scruggs, Bill Monroe & His Bluegrass Boys, Don Reno, Red Smiley, and Curly King & the Tennessee Hilltoppers. Melvin Goins would eventually end up playing in some of these bands. So would his brother. Neither got rich off music, but if they did miss a few meals it was usually because, by their own admission, they were too interested in the radio to come to the dinner table. Bluegrass obviously interested Melvin plenty: he spent the next 50 years playing it, and even kept going after Ray Goins decided to retire. Melvin's first major gig was with the Lonesome Pine Fiddlers, so it was major indeed as this was one of the finest bands bringing in the transition between old-time music and bluegrass. Both brothers were members of this group in the '60s. From there, Melvin joined the brilliant band of Ralph Stanley. In this context, he is mentioned as one of an elite group of players who were a major influence on Stanley and the music of the Clinch Montain Boys, including collaborators such George Shuffler, Larry Sparks, Charlie Sizemore, the late fiddler Curly Ray Cline, and the late songwriter and singer Keith Whitley. From here the logical move was fronting his own band with his brother, known usually as the Goins Brothers Band, and after that evolving into the Melvin Goins & Windy Mountain unit. Melvin has remained a consistently busy presence on the bluegrass scene, and eventually got some credit for his efforts. He was named an "Appalachian Treasure" by Morehead State University in 2000, and was inducted into the Bluegrass Hall of Fame later that year. The former prize includes a handcrafted rocking chair, which its recipient doesn't seem to be planning to use all that much right away. Health problems might have forced Ray Goins off the road, but in the new millennium his brother was continuing a schedule of some 200 concert dates a year with his band, also performing at elementary schools throughout his area. Melvin Goins works regularly with players such as rhythm and lead guitarist John McNeely, banjoist Dale Vanderpool, mandolinist John Rigsby, and bassist Jason Hale. The band's name, Windy Mountain, comes from a signature song of the Lonesome Pine Fiddlers. The new Goins group has recorded for Hay Holler, including several classic sides such as the eerie "Death Came Creepin' in My Room" and the unappetizing "Mouse Tracks in the Bacon Grease." Available from the same label, a full-length video entitled 50 Years of Mountain Music and Bluegrass consists of a set by the band at the 1997 Olive Hill Bluegrass Festival in Kentucky interspersed with an extended interview with Melvin, describing how he and Ray got into the music. Melvin's easy-going banter has served him well in his job as a disc jockey as well. His weekly program the Bluegrass Hour and station KISI has already celebrated its 15th year on the air. ~ Eugene Chadbourne, Rovi