One Man's Island

It is often said that everyone has a story to tell.

Some are better than others, and the others, well, they were probably better left untold.

I learned this lesson firsthand as a community reporter for The Herald-Dispatch in Huntington, West Virginia, some 15 years ago.

I was a 19-year-old obituary clerk when I was approached by an editor with the offer of becoming a reporter covering community news for Western Lawrence County, Ohio.

It was early 1996, and I agreed to the offer, but also felt that the newspaper was sorely lacking in its coverage of what I deemed to be a then-viable local music scene.

Knowing that I had nothing to lose, I expressed this opinion to the editor who, much to my surprise, agreed and gave me the opportunity to serve as The Herald-Dispatch's first music columnist.

It was a big break, especially for someone that young and inexperienced, and not one that I took lightly.

I clearly understood the responsibility that came with this designation and put my heart and soul into that music column for the one year that I had the privilege to write it.

I did not, however, view my other journalistic duties at the newspaper in the same light.

Soon after I began investigating and writing stories about the particular region of which I was assigned, I felt an immediate disconnect.

It was a disconnect from the subject matter, a disconnect from the legwork involved and, most importantly, a disconnect from what I was actually writing.

It was a means to an end, though, because this insipid assignment afforded me the chance to write about something that I, on the other hand, felt very passionately about - music and, particularly, that which was originating from my hometown.

So, it was a bittersweet moment when I was let go by The Herald-Dispatch in February 1997, due to "newsroom budget cuts."

I'll never know if that was the truth and, frankly, don't care, but what I did know was that I would no longer be covering a music scene that very much deserved the exposure.

The decision was just, because I was jaded, going through the motions; writing stories about communities that I, personally, would not have spent five seconds reading, much less the five minutes it would have actually taken to read them.

What I can tell you is that I never lost my passion for the music column.

Now, you may be asking yourself, "what's the point to all of this?"

The point is while I was telling stories that I sensed readers needed to know, I was also telling ones that didn't need to be unearthed, that didn't matter.

That was a defining moment in my life.

In that instant I decided that I would never again squander my time, or the attention spans of those whom were gracious enough to read my ramblings, composing stories that should not have been, in my opinion, disseminated in the first place.

I would never fancy myself a professional writer, but it is an outlet for me (as it likely is for many of you) and, thankfully, it is something I can always fall back on when inspiration strikes me.

What most inspires me? You guessed it, music.

It's the subject I'm most passionate about.

That passion, however, is of no use unless you have a story to tell, one that is worth reading.

I believe there is a story worth telling - the story of Huntington's 1318 4th Avenue, specifically the years 1989-1998, and for longest time I thought I was the only person whom felt this way.

That changed recently with the announcement that two individuals, Chuk Fowlord and Dave Mistich, commenced to film a documentary about the Huntington music scene.

Fowlord and Mistich's documentary is set to chronicle the years 1989-2010, and encapsulate the music that was created and rose to prominence in Huntington during that time.

I, on the other hand, have finally decided to make good on a promise unfulfilled: to, at long last, write the book I've always said I would one day produce.

A book about the days (and nights) when Gumby's and Drop Shop were the preeminent live music venues in an otherwise small, sleepy town of 50,000 residents.

My ambition, much like that of Fowlord and Mistich, is grand, and will take no shortage of time, research and dedication to see it realized.

That I understand, quite clearly.

A project of this magnitude can only be accomplished with the participation and input of those whom lived and created it.

What I have been able to discern in recent months as I began the research process is that the information essential to the retelling of this story will not be easy to come by.

An undertaking of this nature, it never will be, but I won't be deterred.

I will see this through.

It's the least I can do to repay those individuals whom did more for Huntington, culturally, than they could have possibly dreamed.

I'm committed to this endeavor, but are you?

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