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‘Man Of Many Hats’

August 1, 2010

Country music star Brad Paisley, who grew up in Glen Dale, is the subject of a six-page feature in the Aug. 2 issue of The New Yorker magazine. A staff writer, Kelefa Sanneh, traveled with Paisley from Nashville to tour stops in Iowa and Minnesota to profile the singer for the article titled "Man of Many Hats."

The in-depth article is well written and gives a positive perspective on the singer and his family and depicts the Ohio Valley in a positive light, too.

One reader from New Martinsville observed that the country singer has "truly crossed over" to earn a prominent spot in The New Yorker, and noted that the article is "a very, very favorable story about him."

Another reader from Wheeling remarked that the profile of Paisley is "very perceptive, which would be expected of The New Yorker, very favorable, which is much less of a sure thing!"

The article traces Paisley's roots and his rise and success in the country music business. The writer also examines the ways in which his approach to country music contradicts some of the traditions and expectations of the genre.

Sanneh describes their flight from Nashville to an airport at Sioux City, Iowa, where a motorcoach pulls up, "driven by a small, mustachioed man whose face looked familiar. It was Paisley's father, Doug, a retired civil engineer, volunteer firefighter and trained emergency technician, who often joins his son on the road, to help out, or, as he himself says, to bother people."

As I read that account, it occurred to me that Doug Paisley is probably the first former employee of the West Virginia Division of Transportation ever to be mentioned in The New Yorker.

Describing Paisley's routine before, during and after shows, Sanneh offers an amusing account of Kendal Marcy, Paisley's band leader, preparing one of the star's signature white cowboy hats for a show. The helper must reduce the height of a new hat because, the author writes, "Paisley maintains that he runs the risk of looking like Sheriff Woody, from 'Toy Story,' if his hat is too tall."

The writer also relates that "because he (Paisley) gives at least one hat away during every show, he requires a constant supply of perfect hats," and has entered into a deal with Stetson for those hats.

Writing about Paisley's roots, Sanneh notes, "The second-longest-running-country-music show in America is the Wheeling Jamboree, a West Virginia institution since 1933, which helped establish country music as a truly national genre; the weekly show was broadcast by WWVA, whose signal reached most of the Northeast."

Relating how Paisley began playing guitar and singing as a youth, the author writes, "He was an only child with a knack for charming adults, and he was invited to sing in church, and then at the local Rotary Club, where he impressed the program director from WWVA; by the time he was 14, he was a Wheeling Jamboree regular."

From the start of his career in Nashville, "Paisley was a traditionalist but not a purist," Sanneh observes, adding that "Paisley's mischevious sensibility infects everything he sings." The writer also comments that Paisley "enjoys the contradictions that come with being an old-fashioned, new-fangled country star."

Sanneh reveals that during airplane flights, Paisley likes to watch DVDs of "The Andy Griffith Show," and on his tour bus, he watches videos of his wife, actress Kimberly Williams, and their two sons, Huck and Jasper.

A plethora of paintings and other artwork will be on display for the featured exhibitions at Artworks Around Town in Wheeling's Centre Market this month.

Work produced by the Foxberry Farm group of painters and photographers in Wheeling will be shown in the Studio Gallery of Artworks Around Town during August. At the same time, the North Gallery will be displaying work created by developing artists who participate in classes and workshops offered at Artworks by area instructors.

All of the featured art will be unveiled during the free Gallery Hop from 5-8 p.m. Friday Aug. 6. The exhibits will remain on display for viewing, free of charge, through Tuesday, Aug. 31.

A representative of Ohio Valley PEACE related that internationally-known peace activist Art Gish - who made a controversial appearance at the Ohio County Public Library in Wheeling Tuesday, June 22 - died in a tractor accident at his Athens County, Ohio, farm Wednesday, July 28.

According to an article in the Columbus Dispatch, Gish, 70, was operating a tractor on his farm when it flipped over. "Gish was trapped beneath the tractor, which then caught fire. He was pronounced dead at the scene," the newspaper report stated.

Linda Comins can be reached via e-mail at:

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