In his massive book, 'America - The Fifty
States' (Crescent Books, NY, 1986), author Bill Harris writes that,
due to very little immigration from other states, West Virginia
is one of the few whose population is almost entirely native-born.
This probably accounts for the distinctive brand of Country Music
created in the Mountain State, the heartland of 'Appalachia'.
like me, you fell in love with those authentic 'backwoods' sounds,
you need to read the best book on the matter : 'Mountaineer Jamboree'
by Ivan M. Tribe (The
University Press Of Kentucky, Lexington; 1984). It's a masterful
piece of work which emphasizes the crucial role of radio in the
West Virginia Country Music scene. The most significant radio station
in that state was WWVA in Wheeling but other powerful stations included
WSAZ and WHTN (Huntington), WCHS (Charleston), WMMN (Fairmont) and
Early in 1948, another station - WDNE (Elkins) - began broadcasting
; that's where a man by the name of John BAVA began to make his
Thanks to Mr. Tribe, we know that Bava was born at Thomas in Tucker
County (West Va.) in 1913 and was a multi-talented performer who
led his own Hillbilly Gospel group and published a magazine called
'Musical Echoes'. He eventually set up COZY Records, based in Davis
- the label which best reflects the wealth of talent to be found
in the Mountain State.
There's a serious lack of information about the creation & development
of the Cozy label. Initially, I had to rely on bits of info supplied
by a certain Ms. Amanda Rupprecht, according to whom 'it appears
that John Bava had the West Virginia operation for Cozy but the
label itself was actually based in Philadelphia. It began sometime
in 1940 or '41 and was operated by Norman Kelly. Some of that early
product was '78s and 6" cylinders. A certain Floyd Cloydt was
the main financier for most national releases although he didn't
own any interest in the label at the time. Very little of the music
released from Philadelphia was Hillbilly ; most of it was Pop, at
least by production. In those days, a lot of artists did their own
sessions, some of them at WMMN and other radio stations, including
Pittsburgh's famed KDKA. Neither record keeping nor license clearances
were a high priority by either John Bava or Norman Kelly'.
It seemed, she continues, 'that both men operated on a get-it-done
basis with little communication between them. It also seems that
there was also an operation in New-Orleans and one in St-Louis'.
However, recent research by Sam Mathis led to his interviewing Ms.
Janet Bava, John Bava's daughter, who was around in the early
years but married at 18 and moved to Ohio. She returned to Davis
around 1972. Here's the fruit of their conversation which certainly
contradicts most of the above assertions : 'John Bava retired
from the coal mines at the age of 55. He went on to build a church
in Gorman, Maryland and pastored there for the next 25 years. He
first entered the music industry by publishing a song magazine called
'Musical Echos' which he printed on a small printing press in his
converted chicken coup. His daughter vividly remembers one of her
chores being to staple the sheets together. He became interested
in recording music when a poem he had written for a coal mine magazine
was published and put to music. He started Cozy records in approximately
1947-48 and he named it after the Cozy Restaurant in Grafton, WV.
Janet insists that Bava's Cozy label never had any affiliation with
Norman Kelly nor was there any Philidelphia connection. Norman Kelly
ran the Process label and Ms. Rupprecht's information might be confused
with Kelly's label. I feel, however, that Bava had to have known
Kelly because they were contemporaries in the same market and Kelly
was married to Junie Lou who had at least three releases on Cozy'.
Furthermore, Sam Mathis had the recent opportunity to track down
and talk to Norman Kelly's widow, Junie Lou : 'She was able
to corroborate the info given to me by Bava's daughter. Norman Kelly
was not in any way a business partner of John Bava, but they knew
each other well. Norman Kelly actually started the Process label
in approximately 1946. However, the label was inactive at the time
he took Junie's sides to Bava for release on Cozy. Her songs were
recorded in the dining room of her home. Junie was emphatic that
Rupprecht's information concerning early Cozy history is incorrect'.
signings to the label included The Country
Cousins (Bava's group, with his wife, Lucy Bava, as vocalist),
The Western Swingbillies,
Bob Mason and Hank
The latter's real name was David Stanford ; he was born in Texas
on October 9, 1912, and had a long career in radio. He also led
several bands, one of them being called The Foggy Mountain Boys.
He had a handful of releases on Cozy (generally under his Hank The
Cowhand pseudonym although one was billed as by Hank Stanford),
including an EP and an album of Gospel readings. There was more
than a touch of Bluegrass in the backing to songs like the excellent
'Would You Care' or his best-known composition, 'Texas Rose' (sometimes
called 'My Brown Eyed Texas Rose'), but he knew how to rev things
up like he did so well in 'Popcorn Boogie', a close cousin to Tennessee
Ernie Ford's 'Shotgun Boogie', or in 'She's A Hum-Dum Dinger'. He
kept on dee-jaying and singing until his death on October 2, 1966.
Bob Mason's real name was Bob Luce
; he too died in 1966 [info courtesy of his son, John Luce].
Other important local artists to appear on Cozy in the early years
were Bonnie Baldwin (who had worked
briefly with The Chuck Wagon Gang), Red Belcher
and Jake Taylor who once had
Cowboy Copas as featured singer in his band. Charlie Arnett was
a West Virginian who was the chief announcer and business manager
for the Renfro Valley Barn Dance in Kentucky ; in the '40s, he teamed
up with (and soon married) Ethel Irene Reddy, from St-Louis, Missouri,
already known as Daisy Mae. The duo took the stage name of Old
Brother Charlie & Daisy Mae and cut one lone '78 for
the Cozy label before moving down to Tampa, Florida around 1948.
[My thanks to Dick Wheeler for that piece of info]. They
also had six singles as a duo on Mercury plus one as 'Daisy Arnett'
only, all in '48-'49.
The late Charles 'Rex' Parker and his wife, Eleanor, lived in Lerona,
West Virginia. They were Rex & Eleanor
Parker on Cozy and also recorded for King as The Parker Family
with their two daughters. Little John &
Cherokee Sue had several releases on the label. Sue died
in 1967. John [Graham] cut an LP in the 80's, 'Mother's Old Checkered
Apron', which was his signature song. Most of Sue's solo numbers
(never recorded) were children's songs. Millie
Wayne was sometimes a singing partner with Bonnie Baldwin
as the Radio Rangerettes. Together they did an album on Country
Star, another Norman Kelly label. Millie lived in McKeesport, Pennsylvania
in the 1980s. Bonnie Baldwin lived in Bridgeport, Ohio. Both are
probably deceased by now - Bonnie, born 1924 and Millie, born 1920.
Millie's actual last name was Miller. [Many thanks to Ivan Tribe
a youngster from Morgantown, had a very popular hit with 'The Scared
Coal Miner' long before cutting one of the most sought-after Cozy
rockabilly sides, 'Mexican Twist' (#433). Another hot one was 'Hot
Rod Boogie' (#399). According to noted UK collector, Brian Taylor,
who had the privilege to meet John Bava in 1982, Dorse was Dana
Lee Lewis's father. Dana Lee Lewis
waxed 'A Lot Of Lovin' on Cozy (#532) in the first half of the '60s
- a real good rocker with a definitive Eddie
Cochran flavor & featuring a slick guitar break ; its
ballad flip, 'Secret Place', was written by Dorse(y) Lewis who had
previously cut it for the Advance label (#1003, b/w 'Treat Them
Rough'). The Bluegrass duo, Bill & Ed,
recorded quite a few sides for the label while The
Lonesome Pine Fiddlers cut four titles in March 1950 (two
of them - 'Pain In My Heart' and 'Lonesome, Sad & Blue' - being
leased to Coral). While we're on the subject, there's a much later
EP (#523/524) not to be missed if you find it, by The
Virginia Blue Grass Singers featuring The Elliott Brothers
(with Bill Crabtree & his famous banjo). An incredibly rare
release was Cozy #300, dating probably from 1951 ; it was a '78
by the soon-to-become-famous Skeets McDonald
on lead vocal and rhythm guitar. The top-side of the disc ('The
Tattooed Lady') had been a sizeable hit on Detroit's Fortune label
and it is thought that Cozy 'bootlegged' the record, pure &
simple. The other side featured an entirely different artist, Curley
In a different bag, Bava also recorded Harrison
Booher, a fine interpreter of Jimmie Rodgers's songs who
once enjoyed several releases in a row on the label.
was more raw, hick country stuff in the fifties by artists such
as Hank Frazier, Eddy
Bailes (whose recording of 'West Virginia' proved immensely
popular) and the Echo Valley Rangers,
probably led by Eddy Williams who wrote the wonderful slapper, 'All
Because Of You' (#441), for them. Steel guitar player, Paul Preston,
out of Florida, recalls the late Hank Frazier : 'Hank was from
New Hampshire, my old home state. I used to jam with him, playing
my Gibson steel guitar. He also had a great fiddle player with him
; his last name was Murray but I can't remember his first name.
Hank used to tell about going to West Virginia to be on the radio.
He went down to get onto the WWVA Jamboree but they said he didn't
fit in as he didn't have a southern accent ! At some point, he returned
to New Hampshire and ran a band there for years. He also ran a small
music store in Laconia, N.H.' Another obscure singer was Charlie
Carroll (real name : Charlie Burroughs) but his two Cozy
45's are first class Hillbilly. However, I think that one of the
very best discs on the label has to be that
Vandergrift Brothers single (#447/448), coupling 'Sittin'
Here A-Cryin' with 'She's Gone' - two slappin', chuggin' boppers
fueled by haunting vocal harmonies and plaintive steel guitar backing.
That outfit later recorded for the Emperor ('Honky Tonk Woman')
and King ('Who Needs Your Cold, Cold Love') labels. Gospel was well-represented
on the imprint thanks to Fred Steele,
Calvin & Betty, The
Robson Quartet, Dave Kidwell and,
as previously stated, Hank The Cowhand and John & Lucy Bava,
among many others. The Sunshine Boys,
who once had a certain J. D. Sumner in their ranks, also waxed some
Sacred Music for the label. Jerry Kendall, a Country & Gospel
collector from Georgia, has much interesting info to offer on them
: 'They were primarily a southern Gospel quartet but a group
which also did Country, Pop, Barbershop and Cowboy music - even
to the extent of appearing in some B-Western movies with Eddie
Dean, Charles Starrett and a few others. J. D. Sumner appeared
in their final movie ('Prairie Roundup') in 1950. Of course, J.
D. would later back up Elvis Presley
with his group, The Stamps. The four members of the group who appeared
in 'Prairie Roundup' actually sang together in old-timer get-togethers
as late as 1998, just a few months before the deaths of J. D. and
longtime member, Ace Richman'. Other members included Eddie
Wallace (who joined in 1943) and Fred Daniel (1949). Kendall goes
on to point out that, apart from at least two EPs on Cozy, the Sunshine
Boys also recorded for Decca (where they backed up Red Foley on
'Peace In The Valley' in 1951), Dot and Starday (they had at least
one EP and six LPs there, not counting those on the budget Nashville
It's time I mentioned another skilled performer, Dale
Brooks, born in Upshur County (West Va.) in 1933. Dale could
play guitar as well as accordion, trumpet & keyboards, he sang,
wrote songs and, like most other Cozy Artists, was a longtime deejay.
Thanks to an article printed in the Morgan Messenger years ago and
sent to me courtesy of Dianna Coffman, we learn that Dale was one
of the founders of radio station WCST in Berkeley Springs and that
he also had a live country music television show on a Clarksburg
station. He later lost his left arm in an automobile accident and
struggled through a long recuperation but ultimately continued to
play in clubs. Dale had at least one release on the label in 1959
: a 4-song EP (#499/500) combining western-styled songs like 'The
Sage & The Sand' with the rousing, guitar-driven 'Ambridge Boogie',
a true classic much in demand among rockabilly collectors. Also
worthy of mention is Wilson Coffman
(born in Hancock, Maryland in 1927), a talented multi-instrumentist
who backed up Dale Brooks and Bobby Weller among many others. Indeed,
he was part of Dale Brooks's Country Caravan and played one of the
furious twin guitar parts on 'Ambridge Boogie'. He later was a member
of a band [The Nu-Tones] that won a trophy for best band of the
year (1975) following a WYII poll. According
to his daughter, Dianna : 'He even came close to playing back
up for both Patsy Cline and Mel Street.  He built many of his
steel guitars or would add to them to get the sound he wanted. He
had a chance to go to Nashville to be a professional pedal steel
guitar player, but gave his dream up for his wife and his children.'
Sadly, Wilson Coffman passed away on April 2, 1993.
Pictured above are Sammy Moss & His Blue Ridge
Mountain Boys, left to right :
Wilson Coffman (electric Fender Telecaster), Ray Bishop (fiddle),
Sammy Moss (acoustic guitar) & Ercel Coffman (bass).
into the '60s, a brilliant singer appeared in the person of Keith
Anderson - yet another DJ born in Paden City (West Va.).
He wrote just about all his material and this includes strong Rock'n'Roll
like 'Hot Guitars' (#513) and delightful Country like 'I Need A
Hit' (#550), 'Guitar Picker At Heart' or the Buck Owens-styled flip,
'I Still Care' (#530/531). 'Hot Guitars' is a firm favorite of mine, very tuneful and featuring some remarkable drumming behind neatly recorded acoustic & electric guitars. The two guitar breaks are awesome.
Says Bob Parsons, the 16 years old
boy who played bass on 'Guitar Picker At Heart' in 1965 : 'It was recorded
on a reel-to-reel tape in the upstairs ballroom of the Eagles Club
in Paden City, about fifty miles south of Wheeling on the Ohio river.
I have no idea why it was recorded upstairs in the Eagle's ballroom,
except that the acoustics were good there. Two musicians came over
from Shinston, WV, between Fairmont and Clarksburg, probably 60 miles
or so to the east of Paden City as the crow flies, but there were
only back country roads in those days (I don't think the route to
Shinston has actually changed much even today) and it was 2 to 3
hour drive. Here's what I remember -- the guys from Shinston were
a pedal steel and a lead guitar player. They were good and I was
very impressed from the first notes I heard. Keith was a good singer
and writer, but only played rhythm guitar. My mother was a waitress
at Carl Smith's High Hat bar, and though I was underage, she always
told me when Keith was playing and I would watch from a side door.
I was a lead/rhythm player in a fledgling rock band that played
a few times at the High Hat too, though I think it was against the
law, and I also sat in as a bass player for another country/rock
band once and apparently Keith was in the audience. Keith lived
in Paden City, and it was from that, I think, that he asked me to
play bass on this recording. I believe he paid me $30, but I am
no longer certain.  Now,
I did not know that Keith was a disk jockey. I knew him only as
a performer around Paden City, New Martinsville, Sistersville and
Moundsville, all along the river. Apparently he was known in other
parts of the state too, though. We only got two radio stations during
the daytime, Radio WETZ (from Wetzel county) in New Martinsville
and WWVA, a famous station in Wheeling. At night, on the AM frequency
we could pick up a lot of other stations, including WCKY Cincinnati,
Ohio, but they came in and out and it was frustrating that they
would often go out in the middle of a song. Anyhow, I know that
Keith was not a disk jockey at either of those two stations. He
may have been somewhere else, but any commute outside of the Ohio
Valley, say to Charlestown, Huntington, Morgantown or Fairmont,
would have been difficult. Maybe it was a weekend only thing, I
don't know. It would have made sense that he would want to play
in those larger towns on weekends. Anyhow, back to the recording.
Here is what I do and don't remember. We did it all in two takes.
I was completely impressed and a bit intimidated by the two Shinston
musicians. I do not remember one of them singing with Keith, though.
I thought Keith sang it all by himself. Maybe he put down another
track at a studio later. There were no studios that I knew of in
our area. I also remember very clearly that I made a mistake on
the second song, 'I Still Care'. Near the end of the song, the music
comes to a complete stop and I put one more bass note in. Nobody
but me seemed to notice when it happened and I worried about it
for days afterwards. A couple of weeks later when Keith brought
me the record, he mentioned it to me and asked if I knew. I said
I did and apologized. He laughed and said that if the record were
to become a hit it wouldn't be long before everyone would be trying
to imitate that extra bass beat ! That was the first thing I listened
for in the MP3 you sent me. It is still there, at 1:55 approximately
of the MP3. It makes me wonder why Keith did not remove it, if in
fact he did another track at a studio. Maybe
my memory is wrong about the singing and one of the Shinston guys
did sing the harmonies. However, both voices sound like Keith to
 I realize I need to clear something up because I omitted an important
detail about the recording, and as I think about it, it also probably
explains the harmony singing on the record. It has to do with the
two musicians from Shinston. As I mentioned, I was impressed from
the first notes I heard. They were playing when I got up the stairs
and into the dance room, and they were both very good. But when
we started to record, the lead guitar player handed the guitar over
to Keith -it was actually Keith's guitar, and the pedal steel player
played everything himself. So, it was just the three of us playing,
Keith, the pedal steel guy and me. And Keith only played rhythm.
So, though it sounds like each instrumental lead on both records
is split with pedal steel playing first and lead guitar second,
it is actually all only the pedal steel, changing styles right in
the middle of the instrumental lead in a way that makes it sound
like a lead guitar. If you have a technical way of verifying that,
or an expert that can listen and confirm it, check it out.  My
memory is strong on that point, only the pedal steel guy played,
unbelievably. I imagine, as I think of it, that the lead player
was there to sing the harmony, but in those days I had very little
interest in the singing. I was totally focused on the instrumental
stuff, to the point that I couldn't understand why Keith got all
the credit when the other guys were better than him !
I don't think like that now, as I have come to appreciate singing
and writing much more. Anyhow, in my memory, only Keith is singing,
but I imagine my memory is wrong about that'. What
a fascinating insight into the making of a legendary Cozy record
! Bob Parsons later took up the mandolin in addition to his guitar
and bass playing. He was involved with a group named Rural delivery
who had a CD released on Frontier Records, 'The Songs Of Rudy Perkins'.
Bob played lead guitar on it while Rudy Perkins played mandolin.
Jones & Viola Dickerson had a fine waxing in 'Lazy Man's
Blues' (#580/581), a good guitar instrumental. There was also some
awful stuff, to be frank, like Gene &
Ann Westfall's Country Tones - plodding songs which remind
me of one terrible Loyal Pritchard record ('Too Much Of Not Enough'
on Moonbow) ! There was also a rare incursion into Doo-Wop territory,
courtesy of The Royaltones Dance Band.
'He Really Loves You' (#527/528), which Brian Taylor describes as
'a crazily rare oddity, with great retro doo-wop type vocal
& bluesy guitar backing', is indeed much sought after by
vocal group collectors who have generally never heard it as West
Virginia doo-wop is something of a rarity in itself ! The delicate saxophone intro and the shady organ fills add up to an irresistible feel. But flip the
record over and you're now treated to a fantastic Soul-ish number, 'Got
To Go My Way', with strong vocals and a stunning lead guitar break.
What's more, the sound is brilliant here. It has become one of the
most desirable outings on the label and quite deservedly so.
for Garage Rock collectors, they should be aware of two scarce singles
: one by The
Buccaneers ('Please Go steady With Me', #550/551
- ever heard that one ? Its flip was a cover of Jessie Hill's 'Ooh-Poo-Pah-Doo',
a 1960 smash on Minit)
and another by The Jay-Bees coupling
a good version of Bobby Lewis's 1961 hit,'Tossin' & Turnin',
with a cover of The Rolling Stones' 'Good Times, Bad Times' - shortened
to 'Good Times' (#580/581). Says collector Tom Fallon : 'Both
the Buccaneers and the Jay-Bees were popular teenage/garage bands
from the town of Ashtabula, here in northeast Ohio. The 45s were
recorded at an Ashtabula radio station. I believe the two bands
had the same manager, who had connections with John Bava. The records
were pressed in July, 1966 and February, 1968 respectively. The
Jay-Bees name was supposedly inspired by James Brown not John Bava'.
Other rarities include Plain Slim ('One
Little Teardrop Too Late', #570). Bava also set up a subsidiary
record company called Country Sound ; the only release I know on
that label is by Bruce Lambert & The Western
Wheeler Band, with Linda Woods at the piano - a fine rockin'
Country item titled 'I Can Read Between The Lines' (#C-100).
According to what's printed on Cozy EP 27321/2, Gospel albums by
both Hank The Cowhand and John & Lucy Bava were issued but I've
never heard them or seen them for sale. All that takes us up to
the late '60s, by which time John Bava was about to close shop.
Don't know exactly how the Cozy recording studio looked like but
the sound quality often left a lot to be desired (even if the discs
bore the 'Ultra-Sonic High Fidelity' tag !). None the less, the
'feel' was perfectly captured by John Bava, generally assisted by
engineer, Erwin White. The Cozy records were almost all Rite pressings,
meaning that the best vinyl was certainly not used ! However, the
numerous label color variations are a real treat for the collector
: from the early deep maroon (100/400 series) to the later blue
label (500 series). In between, a dark red label was used as well
as different shades of yellow and of blue. Another problem is
the frequent duplication of catalog and/or matrix numbers, as you
will observe in the following discography
: Cozy may even hold the record there !
Regarding the studio, Bobby Farrell,
who had records put out in Philadelphia as early as 1943, offers
this summary of John Bava's operation : 'Although a lot of recording
was done in radio stations, there were a few actual recording studios
in Huntington, Charleston, Clarksburg, Fairmont, Parkersburg, Wheeling
and Martinsburg over in the Eastern Panhandle. Cozy’s own
studio was in Davis, near Black Water Falls, now a national park.
Davis lived on the hunters, fishers and vacationers who liked the
area in addition to the lumber and coal industries. It wasn’t
as big as Fairmont, Morgantown or Clarksburg, but it was a whole
lot more beautiful.  The main room [of the studio] was only 15
by 20 or so, and the control room about the same width and perhaps
10-12 feet deep. Nothing spectacular but efficient for the day.
A Gates board, Magna-Cord tape decks (portable too, as I remember)
and several microphones to carry all the instruments and singers.
An absolute jumble to the uninitiated eye, but capable of state-of-the-art
when the musicians and singers knew what the hell they were doing.
 The only sound proofing was thick acoustic panels just like in
the radio stations of the day, white blocks with holes, fitted as
the room permitted. Carpeting caught hell from smokers and spillers
alike. In those days, nobody thought much about the effects of tobacco
smoke on equipment, nor set-up alignment between tape decks and
other equipment either. At least, John Bava had his decks set to
the same head-levels as those of Carl Burkhart's at Rite. That in
itself was a chore as Carl thought the way it came was the way it
should remain. Incompatibility between decks was one of the reasons
for shoddy records from otherwise good tapes. Along with the second
grade materials Carl Burkhart used'.
Once again, Janet Bava has a very different
view, as recounted by Sam Mathis : 'Janet went on to say that
Bava NEVER had his own recording studio. His was primarily a vanity
label and most of his releases came from submissions by the artists
or he took them to a local radio station to record. Janet is reasonably
sure that his recordings were done in Fairmont and Clarksburg. He
may have gone to Grafton as well. She said that he occasionally
made road trips to record acts in Logan, Huntington, etc. Bava folded
Cozy records in approximately 1972 with his last two releases being
on 8 track tape. My friend John Newbraugh has one of these tapes
given to him by Lucy Bava after interviewing her in 2000. She passed
away in 2002'.
truly hope that this piece will become the stepping stone to the
real Cozy label story.
Meanwhile, and in spite of all its mysteries and shortcomings, John
Bava's label has allowed us
to hear a multitude of West Virginia Artists in the Hillbilly, Bluegrass,
Gospel and Rockabilly fields.
Many of them were virtually unknown outside the Mountain State
but their work sure deserved to be committed to wax.