Yesterday, the bluegrass music world was shaken again by the loss of one of their own. Melvin Goins, legendary bluegrass musician and part of The Goins Brothers, passed away while on the road in Canada. He was 83.
Melvin Goins, along with his brother Ray, were born on Sinai Mountain, near Goodwill, West Virginia. They would grow up on their family’s farm near Bluefield, West Virginia, working in the fields. They developed their love of music from listening to “Farm and Fun Time” on WCYB, as well as from their grandma who played the organ at church, along with a cousin who played fiddle.
Melvin Goins first got a banjo after trading four hens and a rooster with his neighbor. However, his brother picked it up and eventually a cousin gave Melvin his first guitar. Later at the age of sixteen years, he performed Flatt and Scruggs tune, “I’m Gonna Settle Down” at a band contest in Bluefield, WV. This first public performance earned him first prize of $10.
The Goins Brothers played on WKOY in 1951. Melvin played at local square dances while his brother Ray went out on the road for a year with the Loensome Pine Fiddlers. The brothers then joined Bernard Dillion and Joe Meadows to form the Shenandoah Playboys. They played a daily radio show on WHIS and then at square dances on Saturday nights. Later that year, Ezra Cline called and asked if they would be in the Lonesome Pine Fiddlers. They would stay with that group for 2 years before working WPRT in Prestonsburg, Kentucky.
They would often play gigs alongside fellow bluegrass legend, Ralph Stanley. Melvin would perform with Ralph Stanley when Ralph’s brother, Carter, was too ill to perform. He would continue to perform with Ralph until about 1969 and then Melvin would get into show promotion. Since 1969, the Goins Brothers Band recorded over 30 albums and had a hit tv show on WKYH out of Hazard, Kentucky, as well as their radio shows on WSIP in Paintsville and WSKV in Stanton.
In 1994, Ray Goins had to give up touring due to health problems, but encouraged Melvin to continue playing. Melvin would change the name of the band to Melvin Goins and Windy Mountain. Ray would pass away in July 2007.
In 2005, the Goins Brothers were included in the International Bluegrass Music Museum’s oral history project. Melvin Goins would be the first bluegrass musician to be featured on the cover of the Smithsonian Magazine. In 2009, Melvin Goins was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Association Hall of Fame as a member of the Lonesome Pine Fiddlers. In April 2011, The Goins Brothers were inducted into the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame. In 2013, The Goins Brothers were inducted into the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame. On US-23 in eastern Kentucky, deemed the Country Music Highway, you can see the sign in Catlettsburg that proudly states it is the home of Melvin Goins.
Back in 2011, when asked about being inducted into the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame, Melvin Goins said, “it is the greatest thing that has happened to me in my life in all my years in bluegrass. That is the greatest music in the world. We’ve had some great entertainers that have come from this wonderful state of Kentucky – Bill Monroe, Grandpa Jones, Merle Travis, Keith Whitley, Ricky Skaggs, so many legends. I’m so glad that they picked the music up and expanded on it. I don’t think this good music will ever die. I thank the good Lord for blessing me to allow me to travel and play for people. I love it.”
Jessica Blankenship is the owner and founder of Kentucky Country Music website. The Berea College graduate has been a music journalist and historian for over 20 years. She enjoys providing concert photography, reviews, historical articles, red carpet event coverage, and exclusive interviews of your favorite musicians. Jessica is proud to be a Kentucky Colonel and alumni of the FFA and 4-H Clubs. In 2018, she was named one of Laurel County’s Ten Under 40 Award Recipients. In 2019, she was a member of the Inaugural class of BRIGHT Kentucky as part of Leadership Kentucky. She has been featured on the Kentucky Music Preview podcast, Hollercast podcast, Overtones radio show, WFKY Nashville News Roundup, KET, and more. Beyond music, she enjoys traveling, helping her community, collecting gnomes, and Volkswagens.