Announcing “Charley West’s Bonus Tracks”

Time and Distance

Time and Distance

If you’ve checked out today’s feature piece about local band Time and Distance, I hope you noticed the exclusive performance video shot by my colleague Marcus Constantino.

It’s really difficult to describe the sound of music. Somebody once compared it to “dancing about architecture.”

So I figured, why not give readers a chance to listen while they read? That’s why we’re starting a little project called “Charley West’s Bonus Tracks.”

Anytime it’s possible, we’re going to get local bands to play a song for us. We’ll record those performances and upload them to our YouTube channel.

So here’s our first Bonus Track, Time and Distance’s song “That Girl.”

Maya Angelou has died

Maya AngelouMultiple news organizations are reporting Maya Angelou, the award-winning writer and actress, has died at age 86.

She died at her home in Winston Salem, N.C., according to her publicist.

Angelou had been scheduled to receive the 2014 Major League Baseball Beacon of Life at an awards banquet on May 30, but announced yesterday she would not be able to attend due to illness.

She is perhaps best known for her 1969 autobiography “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” in which she recounts the traumas of her early life, including being raped by mother’s boyfriend. The book remained on the New York Times best seller list for two years and is now widely taught in high school English courses.

Angelou came to Charleston in September 2012 to be the special guest speaker for the YWCA Charleston’s Signature Centennial Event at the Clay Center.

“I read poetry to educate, inform – to enliven,” she said at the event. “I look in poetry sometimes for words that help me to laugh, especially when I need it. When I’ve turned on the television or picked up the newspaper and heard ‘doom and gloom,’ I think, wait a minute, it’s not all doom and gloom. There’s something there to make me smile or make me laugh – and if there isn’t, I’ll write it.”

Angelou had a sizeable Twitter following, and often took to the social media site to convey words of wisdom. This was her last tweet, posted May 23:


WV Public Radio wraps up #WhyIStay project

West Virginia Public Radio started an interesting project a few weeks back. They asked their listeners to sum up — in a tweet or Instagram post that used the hashtag #WhyIStay — why they chose to remain in West Virginia even though lots of residents have left for greener pastures.

The project coincided with a series of stories by reporter Ben Adducchio about West Virginia’s population decline. At the same time, other public radio stations were talking up the same issue.

The project garnered about 200 responses in the state. WVPR has now collected those responses into a super-cool interactive map.

This is just a screen-grab. Click the image to go to the real thing.

This is just a screen-grab. Click the image to go to the real thing.

The responses vary. Lots of people stay for family, others for the state’s natural beauty. Instagram user @alinville1 says, simply, “The country is good for the body, heart and soul.”

While the project saw an impressive response from the public, digital editor Dave Mistich said the numbers aren’t important.

“I think the real gauge is engagement. Sure, we gained more than 150 instagram followers in two weeks but I saw a few responses that indicated some people were looking for a way to express these sentiments. For someone to latch on to that and to give them a voice and a platform to express the way they feel is worth way more than any number. It’s corny, I know. But, at the end of the day we gave a handful of people a platform to express something valuable.”

I don’t think that’s corny at all.

Lady Gaga’s West Virginia roots

lady-gaga-1-600I’ve heard for some time now that Lady Gaga’s grandmother is from West Virginia. And at a recent concert in Pittsburgh, she confirmed it.

In the introduction to her hit song “Born This Way,” Gaga gave a shout-out to her mother’s mother.

My grandma’s here tonight. My grandmother was there with me for one of the hardest times in my life, and she’s been there for every other hard time since that one.

We have been through a lot together because my grandmother’s from West Virgin-i-a. She always told me not to give up. She always told me to be myself.

I would say ‘Grandma this business is so hard, nobody understands me, grandma. ‘She’d say ‘Oh honey, they will.’ I love you, grandma.

Watch the video here:

It reminds me of another tribute to a West Virginia grandmother…

One from the archives…

As you may or may not know, the Daily Mail recently has redesigned of our website. That’s great, but unfortunately it also means some of our older stories are no longer available on the Internet.

Today I went looking for this story, published March 7, 2012, about a local shoe repairwoman who once worked on rock star Gene Simmons’ boots. I couldn’t find it so I dug it out of the archives and decided to post it here, for posterity and your reading pleasure.

(By the way, the story eventually wound up on Kiss’s homepage. A highlight of my career.)

A story I wrote about Gene Simmons' boots once landed on KISS's website

A story I wrote about Gene Simmons’ boots once landed on KISS’s website


By Zack Harold, Daily Mail Staff

Jina Jordan has held several jobs in her life.

She owned a cleaning business and then worked as a pizza dough maker at Gino’s Pizza in Sissonville. She drives cars for the St. Albans Auction and repairs purses and leather jackets at the Fife Street Shoe Shop in downtown Charleston.

But over a decade ago, Jordan, 53, held her coolest gig of all. For one day, she was KISS bassist Gene Simmons’ cobbler.

The storied rock band played Charleston on May 2, 2000, on the first leg of their “Farewell Tour.”

KISS didn’t actually retire after that tour – they’ve embarked on seven more since then – but the Charleston date was one of the last times the band’s original lineup took the stage together.

Chris Dickerson, the Daily Mail’s city editor at the time, was eagerly anticipating that concert.

“I’m a huge KISS fan and over the years I became friends with KISS’s tour manager,” Dickerson said.

Tommy Thayer, who now plays lead guitar for the group, was KISS’s manager during the 2000 tour.

“I don’t remember all the details, but they had just got into town and there was something wrong with Gene’s boot. Tommy called me and asked me, ‘Where’s a good place I could take them?'” Dickerson said.

“I suggested the Fife Street Shoe Shop.”

That was the last Dickerson heard of Simmons’ boot problems. But it was the beginning of a very interesting day for Jordan.

On the afternoon of May 2, one of Simmons’ assistants brought the boots into the shop.

“It was a rush order,” Jordan remembers.

She had worked at the Fife Street Shoe Shop for about a year, spending much of her time repairing leather jackets and purses, mending rips, replacing zippers and fixing busted buckles. She learned to sew from her mother, Nadine.

“She sewed my sister’s wedding dress and bridesmaids’ dresses,” Jordan said. “I’ve got her old sewing machine, one of those real heavy-duty ones that you can sew blue jeans with.”

Jordan didn’t do a lot of work on shoes, though. Most of the broken heels and worn-out soles went to Andy Arthur, the shop’s manager.

But Jordan knew her client well. She graduated high school in 1977, two years after KISS got its first top 40 hit with “Rock and Roll All Nite.”

“I used to jam out to them when I was younger. I used to have them on an 8-track. We had a Cutlass, we called it a ‘Gutless.’ We used to jam to that,” she said.

The wildly costumed group became as famous for their onstage antics – Simmons’ fire breathing and blood spitting, Ace Frehley’s fireworks-spewing guitar, Peter Criss’ levitating drum set – as for hard-rocking hits like “Detroit Rock City” and “Calling Dr. Love.”

Well, Gene Simmons had aged a lot since Jordan was riding around in the Gutless.

He still was breathing fire and letting his foot-long tongue unfurl, but his ankles were swollen when he arrived in Charleston.

He needed wider zippers installed on the sides of his platform boots.

Though Jordan had done similar jobs before, replacing the zippers on Simmons’ boots presented some unique problems.

First, they were heavy. Even with all of Simmons’ metal adornments removed, the oversized footwear still weighed 35 pounds.

“I don’t know how he wore them onstage,” she said.

The boots also were wet when they arrived on Jordan’s workbench.

“That leather was real soft and the boots were still sweaty from the night before. It was hard to get them cut out,” she said.

Jordan was working on deadline, too: KISS was performing at the Civic Center that night and Simmons needed his boots fixed, pronto.

She started by slicing the threads that held the zippers to the boots’ leather. She had to be careful not to cut the soft, supple, soggy leather.

With the zippers removed, Jordan glued new ones in place. The glue normally sets up fast, but Jordan said the wet leather slowed the process. She used a fan to dry them, but that didn’t work very well.

Finally, after about an hour, the glue set up and Jordan stitched the zippers back into the leather.

“I guess he made it. He performed that night,” she said.

Jordan didn’t get to see her handiwork on stage, though.

Arthur told her he had received free tickets for helping the band, but that was just a little good-natured teasing among co-workers.

Jordan left the shoe shop about eight months after her chance encounter with the famous footwear. She got her old job back about two months ago but spent the intervening years as business-cleaner, dough-maker and car-driver.

She never forgot her most famous job, though.

“I still have the zippers.”

She put them in a plastic bag and placed it in a Pintor cigar box with newspaper clippings from the concert. For a long time, the zippers still smelled like Simmons’ sweat.

“I said, ‘I’m going to keep these ’cause someday something might happen with them.'”

If nothing else, the zippers help her prove that she’s not lying about her most famous client.

Live on the Levee’s 2014 line-up announced

Columbus-based funk and soul group Thump Daddy will kick off the 2014 Live on the Levee series on May 23.

Columbus-based funk and soul group Thump Daddy will kick off the 2014 Live on the Levee series on May 23.

City officials gathered Friday morning at Haddad Riverfront Park to announce the 2014 line-up for Charleston’s annual Live on the Levee concert series.

The free concerts, held each Friday at 6:30 p.m., will be held over 15 weeks from May 23 to Aug. 29.

This is the 11th season for Live on the Levee.

Here’s the line-up:

  • May 23 –  Columbus funk-soul group Thump Daddy with opening act Downtown King
  • May 30 – Local band Time and Distance with Beggar’s Clan
  • June 6 – Mother’s Nature with Lola Spencer
  • June 13 – Classic rock revue Midnight Special with Cat Daddy’s
  • June 20 – Local Pink Floyd tribute act USFLOYD with rock trio Farnsworth
  • June 27 – Former “X Factor” contestant Colton Pack with “Chasing Nashville” star Autumn Blair
  • July 4 – Neil Diamond tribute act The Black Diamond Experience with Stonestreet
  • July 11 – Gypsy-rock band Qiet with Tofujitsu
  • July 18 – The Bob Thompson Unit with Marshall and the Groove
  • July 25 – Jam band Donna the Buffalo with Morgantown-based group Fletcher’s Grove
  • Aug. 1 – Bluegrass group Johnny Staats and the Delivery Boys with The Band Wagon
  • Aug. 8 – Hybrid Soul Project with Hurricane-based country singer Mark Cline Bates
  • Aug. 15 – Former “American Idol” contestant Josh Gracin with Dean Alexander
  • Aug. 22 – Jimi Hendrix bassist and West Virginia Music Hall of Fame inductee Billy Cox with opening act John Ellion, another W.Va. native who wrote the hit song “Some Kind of Wonderful”
  • Aug. 29 – Yarn with The Company Stores

“Best-of-ALL” ticket package now available

Festivall Logo 2014To commemorate the 10th year of FestivALL, organizers are offering a special $100 ticket package that includes admission to four of the festival’s big music events.

The “Best-of-ALL” package will include admission to:

  • FestivALT, an Americana concert at Appalachian Power Park with the Drive-By Truckers and Carolina Chocolate Drops
  • The annual Mayor’s Concert with legendary R&B singer Aaron Neville
  • Blues, Brews & BBQ, which will feature Rick Estrin & The Nightcats, The Nighthawks and singer-guitarist Samantha Fish
  • Wine & All That Jazz, featuring Indian/jazz fusion band Red Baraat and The Dirty Dozen Brass Band

“The Best-of-ALL package is our way of thanking participants for their support over the last 10 years and our way of encouraging participants to experience the broad range of music available during the festival,” FestivALL director Larry Groce said in a statement.

Visit for more information and a complete schedule of FestivALL events.


The art of Blake Wheeler

Today’s “Life” section features local artist Blake Wheeler, who makes paintings melding pop culture from the 1950s with video games and cartoons from the 1980s.

It’s like what would have happened if Norman Rockwell had grown up with “The Twilight Zone” and an NES machine.

You can read that story by clicking here, but I wanted to give you a larger look at some of Blake’s work. Photos are by Daily Mail photographer Bob Wojcieszak.

Wheeler will sell his work at the East End Bazaar on Saturday morning. You can see more of his paintings by visiting his Facebook page.

Amelia Chan leaving the W.Va. Symphony

Amelia Chan Concert master Amelia Chan is wrapping up her time with the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra. The group will perform the last concerts of its 2013-2014 series this weekend, after which Chan will return to her native Hong Kong.

She has worked with the symphony since 2004, after graduating from the Manhattan School of Music and Mannes College of Music in New York.

After returning to China, she plans to perform as a solo artist and spend more time teaching.

Here’s a short video of Chan, shot by our videographer Marcus Constantino.