On Saturday, May 14, and for the second consecutive year, the Bill Withers Memorial Festival will take place at the Intermodal Gateway in Beckley (Raleigh County).
Born on the Fourth of July, 1938, in Slab Fork, West Virginia, Bill Withers spent the first 17 years of his life in Beckley. After a nine-year stint in the Navy, and a subsequent relocation to Los Angeles, California, Withers embarked on a songwriting career that would have positive cultural implications for generations to come. With a legacy highlighted by classics such as Lean on Me, Ain’t no Sunshine, and Lovely Day – career accomplishments that include nine Grammy nominations and inductions into both the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – Bill Withers is American music-royalty.
The memorial festival will immediately follow the Beckley Sweet Treats Rhododendron Festival, making for a full day of fun and entertainment. Musical performances will begin at 1pm, and include a lineup of eight talented artists:
- 1:00p – 1:45pm – The Carpenter Ants
- 2:00p – 2:30pm – Lords of Lester
- 2:30p – 3:00pm – Drew Bailey Lawrence
- 3:00p – 3:45pm – Matt Mullins & The Bringdowns
- 4:00p – 4:30pm – Scott T. Smith
- 4:45p – 5:30pm – Parachute Brigade
- 5:45p – 6:30pm – 3chill
- 6:45p – 7:30pm – Aristotle Jones
A special performance from How Great Thou Art Theatre Group will be held from noon until 1 p.m. Sound and lighting for all performances will be provided by Monarch Entertainment, and Appalachian Screen Printing will have festival shirts available – with half of all proceeds going towards the Bill Withers statue fundraiser. Tea Time and El Mariachi will also be on-site at the festival with Mexican food and other assorted refreshments available for purchase.
Michael Lipton of the Carpenter Ants, who also serves as Director of the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame, spoke to HashtagWV recently about the legacy of Bill Withers.
“In 2005 when we started considering who should be in the first class of (hall of fame) inductees, the very first person who came to mind was Bill Withers,” Lipton said. “He embodies all the different aspects of West Virginia, and West Virginia music.”
After his induction, Lipton recalled how Withers eagerly attended several other induction ceremonies, and happily presented awards to other artists. Lipton went on to reflect upon Withers’ appearance at the 2015 WV Music Hall of Fame Induction ceremony. The show’s closing number was a rendition of “Lean on Me,” with Withers playing the opening notes on the piano.
“He was an incredible guy,” Lipton shared. “He could say so much in one sentence – you can tell that through his music and his lyrics. But he did that in person, as well. We’re just thrilled to be a part of the memorial festival.”
“I am from this place, and I am of this place,” Bill Withers, during his induction into the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame
Matthew Young has been a resident of Lewisburg, WV since December 2019. Prior to arriving in West Virginia, Matthew resided in the Philadelphia area, where his reporting, commentary, and editorials have been featured in numerous local and regional publications. Previously, he has served as a scriptwriter and consultant for television, radio, and various other short-form digital-media platforms, both within the United States and internationally. Since moving to the Mountain State, Matthew spent eighteen months as senior writer/managing editor for the West Virginia Daily News and is currently an active journalist with the West Virginia Press Association.