MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — A West Virginia University Professor said the chance to document, archive, and act as a country music historian as part of a new research project is a dream-come-true.
“In my line of work, a lot of people are more interested in dead European composers than country music,” Travis Stimeling, Assistant Professor of Music History at WVU said Thursday on “The Gary Bowden Show” on the AJR News Network. “It’s nice to be in a place where I don’t have to explain that.”
Stimeling, a Buckhannon native, said he grew up listening to Willie Nelson with his dad, which helped blossom a love for country music.
“That sound has been part of my life forever,” he said. “So, when I had the opportunity to become a country music scholar, I said ‘Why not? This makes perfect sense.'”
Stimeling plans to focus on the “Nashville Sound” in particular, which includes a number of little-known session players who worked with some of the biggest names in country and rock and roll music for decades.
“The Nashville Sound was kind of a style of country music that emerged in the late 1950’s,” he said. “Think about Jim Reeves, Patsy Cline, Brenda Lee, some of those great classic country artists.”
Stimeling is also working on a book about legendary sessions player Charlie McCoy–a Fayette County, WV native. Part of his goal in documenting the history of “Nashville Sound” is to get the oral history of great sessions players from the era.
“All of this music was produced in just a handful of studios all along, just really, one street in Nashville for the most part by a core group of session musicians,” he said. “About a dozen and a half or so session musicians played on all of those records.”
Professor Stimeling was thrilled–and a little surprised–when his application for funding to the National Endowment for the Humanities for the project was accepted. According to Stimeling, they generally accept fewer than 10 percent of applicants while receiving more than 1,000 applicants per year.
“Really, the National Endowment for the Humanities does a lot of really tremendous work in helping historians, literature scholars, philosophers, to work on project outside of the normal teaching duties,” he said. “They do a lot of really remarkable work with a very small budget.”
Additional funding and support is being provided by the West Virginia Humanities Council and the WVU Faculty Senate.
This project will be the first historical record of “Nashville Sound.”