Pickin’ Time Bios

Larry Cordle
Larry Cordle is a native of Lawrence County who broke onto the national music scene in 1983 with the number one country hit “Highway 40 Blues,” recorded by Ricky Skaggs. Since penning that chart topping single, Cordle has had songs featured on country and bluegrass albums that have sold more than 50 million copies.
In addition to writing songs for a virtual who’s who in country music, Cordle also performs as a solo act and with his bluegrass band Lonesome Standard Time. He received a Grammy in 2004 for his inclusion on the Country Album of the Year, a tribute project to the music of the Louvin Brothers. In addition to his 2004 Grammy, Cordle was also nominated for a Grammy for his debut Bluegrass album “Lonesome Standard Time.”
Cordle has long held to a traditional country sound in his music, and in 2000 he gained attention for a song he penned with co-writer Larry Shell titled “Murder on Music Row.” The song was a condemnation of country music’s shift to a modern metro sound and away from its roots.
While “Murder on Music Row” leveled criticism at the Nashville music industry where Cordle works, it was eventually honored by the Country Music Association with nominations for Vocal Event of the Year and Song of the Year in 2000, after it was recorded by Alan Jackson and George Strait and debuted in the country Top 40.

Ron Pen
Ron Pen is professor of music at the University of Kentucky where he also serves as Director of the John Jacob Niles Center for American Music  and Coordinator of the Division of Musicology and Ethnomusicology. Previously he also served as Director of the Appalachian Studies Program. Dr. Pen has focused his research and writing on traditional Appalachian culture.  His recent publications in this area include I Wonder As I Wander: The Life of John Jacob Niles (University Press of Kentucky 2010) and “Preservation and Presentation of the Folk: Forging an American Identity” in Music, American Made (Harmonie Park Press 2011).  He has been an active member of the Society for American Music, serving as Vice President, Book Review Editor, and National Conference Local Arrangements and Program Chairs. He is a performer as well, playing traditional instruments fiddle, guitar, and dulcimer in solo concerts as well as with bands including the Red State Ramblers.  He sings music drawn from traditional Appalachian repertoire and is a founding member of the Appalachian Association of Sacred Harp Singers with whom he sang on Garrison Keillor's Prairie Home Companion radio program.  He has been on the staff of various Folk Music workshops and camps including Swannanoa Gathering's Old Time Music Week, Augusta Heritage Center's Old Time and Vocal Week, Berea College's Christmas Country Dance School, and Hindman Settlement School's Family Folk Week.
Dr. Pen has also been interested in World Music in his teaching and performance, and has been involved in several State Department-sponsored cultural exchanges with Kyrgyzstan.  Most recently, in February-March 2012 he and members of the Red State Ramblers old time string band collaborated with members of Ustatshakirt at a series of performances in Kyrgyzstan culminating in a concert at the National Opera House in Bishkek. In Fall 2012 he traveled with the Red State Ramblers to Ecuador on a cultural exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Embassy.
Rich Kirby
Rich Kirby (guitar, vocals) has played traditional Appalachian music on fiddle, banjo, guitar and mandolin for over thirty years. One of the founders of Appalshop's June Appal record label, he has produced recordings of such mountain music masters as Wade Mainer, Lily May Ledford, and his grandmother Addie Graham. Since 1990 Rich has worked at Appalshop's community radio station WMMT-FM.  Rich has been on the staff of various folk life workshops and festivals, including Hindman Settlement School’s Family Folk Week, Swannanoa Gathering’s Old Time Music and Dance Week, Cowan Creek, and the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, and a series of performances and tours associated with Appalashop’s “Voices from Home.”  Rich is a founding member of the long-running Appalachian Old Time String Band, Rich and the Po’ Folks whose recording, When the Whistle Blew (June Appal represents some of the finest music ever to come from the East Kentucky coal camps.
Lee Sexton
A master of the drop-thumb and two-finger banjo style, Lee “Boy” Sexton has lived his whole life near his birthplace in Letcher County, KY. Born in 1927, he acquired his first banjo, a homemade wooden fretless model with a groundhog skin head, for a dollar when he was eight years old (he worked to clear a field for a week to earn that dollar), and with instruction from his father and uncles (one of whom was banjo player Morgan Sexton, winner of the National Heritage Award).  Sexton soon mastered the instrument, and the fiddle, as well. As a young man he would work all week in the mines and then play music all weekend at house parties, bean stringings, and corn shuckings. June Appal issued an LP of traditional material, Whoa Mule, in 1988, and an expanded CD version in 2004 with an additional 40 minutes of music. One of the most respected and revered folk musicians in East Kentucky, Sexton garnered a brief scene in the 1980 film Coal Miner's Daughter, where he appears playing at a square dance. In 1999 he was presented with the Kentucky Governor's Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Arts.
   Stephens Family Band
Tom and Anne Stephens have been musicians and music educators for over 20 years.  Now, their children are joining them and carrying on the family tradition of playing music. Isaac, age 15, has chosen the saxophone as his main instrument and Aaron, age 10, is a drummer. Tom and Isaac are both guitarists but Tom usually performs with the family on keyboard.  Anne also plays piano and woodwinds, but performs as a vocalist.  Their music genre of choice is jazz.  The boys have grown up listening to jazz standards with their family along with a variety of other musical styles.  Each member of this family has played music with multiple groups in multiple musical styles, but enjoys playing together as a family band.  The family group formed mostly to play at family events, such as wedding receptions, but has also played at community events and church functions.
  John Haywood
Born in a holler in Eastern Kentucky, John Wezley Haywood saw life differently than children who grew up in more economically developed areas. He lived in a small
community called Risner that was named for his Mother’s family. Today, from his home in Knott County, he paints the real Kentucky. His artwork wallows in the stereotypes and pays tribute to lifestyles that make Kentucky and Appalachia one of the most unique and celebrated places in the entire world. The paintings tell stories of hell raising hillbillies, hardened mine workers, mountain musicians, and more. Haywood currently resides at the head of Little Doubles Creek near Hindman, Kentucky with his wife, Kelli Brooke
Haywood, and his daughters Deladis Rose and Ivy Pearl Haywood. He is also an award winning old time banjo player currently playing with Rich and the Po'Folk, and the Travelin' Snakes. He also performs solo.  John Maintains The Parlor Room, a thriving tattoo parlor and art exhibition space in Whitesburg, KY.

Carla Gover
There are lots of musicians out there claiming to be “authentic,” but Carla Gover is more than that: she’s the real thang. Born and raised in Eastern Kentucky, she was exposed to all the ingredients that go into making a true Appalachian musician of the first order. The Old-Time Herald says, “Carla’s music contains the best elements of traditional Appalachian Music, including purity, intensity, integrity, and vivid imagery.” She is also an award-winning singer-songwriter, with wins at the Kerrville Newfolk Festival, Merlefest’s Christ Austin Song Contest, and the Flatrock Festival Songwriting Contest.
Carla released a CD in 2010 entitled Gypsy Ways, and is currently at work writing songs for her next one, exploring archetypal themes in Appalachia through original music written in a traditional style. She is also active in giving educational performances, residencies and workshops within the state of Kentucky, and tours selectively in the state and the south-central US. She also teaches at a variety of music and arts camps, performs for churches and civic groups, and rounds out her schedule with music festivals.
Carla performs solo on banjo and guitar, and brings in some of Kentucky’s best acoustic musicians when the situation calls for a bigger sound. She frequently adds some lively flatfoot dancing to the set, and gives audiences a sense that they have had a trip to the Appalachian Mountains.
Carla performed for 10 years with the duo Zoe Speaks, touring all over the country and performing at such venues as The Kennedy Center, Merlefest, Godfrey Daniels, and The Freight & Salvage. Acoustic Guitar Magazine calls her "one of the 30 essential artists of the next generation." Gover has recorded projects and performed with a bevy of accomplished musicians, including Dirk Powell (Cold Mountain, Van Lear Rose), the legendary Jean Ritchie, fiddler Stuart Duncan, renowned guitarist Tony Furtado, mandolin player Mike Compton (O Brother Where Art Thou?) and many others.

Johnny Sexton
Johnny Sexton grew up playing music with his father on Line Fork, KY, absorbing a wealth of family music from his dad and other relatives including Morgan Sexton, Manon Campbell, Roscoe Holcomb, and Dandy Lusk.  His professional career has made him a veteran of the U.S. Army, work with the coal industry, and an Old Regular Baptist preacher, but Johnny has been drawn home to accompany his father on the old time music he has cherished all his life.  Johnny is a rock solid and inventive old time guitarist.

Jesse Wells
Jesse Wells first learned fiddle from his father Jamie.  He graduated with a degree in guitar performance from Morehead State University and now serves as education coordinator and Archivist for MSU’s Kentucky Center for Traditional Music.  Jesse is a versatile multi-instrumentalist who has played in a number of old time, bluegrass and rock bands; currently he plays with the Clack Mountain Stringband and Kentucky Wild Horse.  He hosts a Sunday afternoon program of old time and bluegrass music on WMKY 90.3 FM. Jesse is in much demand as a musician at camps and festivals, serving at Hindman Settlement School’s Family Folk Week, Swannanoa Gathering’s Old Time Music and Dance Week, and at Cowan Creek School. He most recently produced a fine documentary recording of Bath County, KY fiddler Carlton Rawlings (Kentucky Home Recordings, Vol. 1).