Haddox makes music – one song, one gig at a time

Aug.9 – Chris Haddox, WVU professor, community activist and singer-songwriter, found out a few weeks ago that he was the cause of an international incident.

Ah, it was fine. This particular incident, for the record (no pun intended), was of the sonically good variety.

Someone in England heard one of his songs online.

The guy liked what he heard.

So much so that he called a station in Belfast, Northern Ireland, because he felt the on-air staff might like it too.

They did – and the station’s director of programming approached Haddox.

It wasn’t long before a copy of his self-titled album, which has charted well on the folk and Americana charts since its national release last spring, flew across the Atlantic in a padded mailer.

nothing to it.

“That was pretty cool,” said Haddox, who will be performing songs from that album and others from his repertoire of bluegrass, country and Appalachian tunes at Krepps Park on August 9.

With bandmates Jim Truman, Mary Linscheid, John Posey, Alex Heflin and Mark Poole, Haddox will perform from 6pm to 8pm if this is part of BOPARC’s Concerts in the Park series.

Also attending is the band Hillbilly Gypsies, Morgantown’s purveyors of bluegrass and mountain music.

When Haddox says ‘It’s quite interesting how it’s going’, he’s not just talking about the call from the Belfast station or being in a recording studio at the age of 62 for a national release of an album – including music videos – it was his turn.

He talks about the craft of songwriting and the musical journey that eventually took him to another level.

Haddox works in many different camps in Morgantown.

At WVU, he is John Christopher Haddox, Ph.D., an authority on sustainable building practices in the School of Design and Community Development.

Before that, he was an intrepid executive in cargo shorts and served as director of Monongalia County Habitat for Humanity, the organization that helps make the dream of home ownership a reality for those who might not otherwise have the opportunity.

And long before that, he was a serious WVU dropout: a guest and troubadour-in-training who ventured south to Nashville, Tennessee, in 1983 with the intention of at least becoming a songwriter in Music City, USA.

There, the then 21-year-old served tables and once pitied Garth Brooks – the version before Garth that wasn’t famous yet.

Haddox really has a chance.

It was a rushed meeting with a Music Row production manager who was listening to a tape of four original tunes – each allotted five seconds.

“Yes, I didn’t dent it,” he said dryly. “I bounced.”

The former professor and perpetual picker returned to Morgantown to pursue other interests, but he never put his music on the back burner.

Raised in Logan County, Haddox played acoustic guitar, old-time fiddle, and clawhammer banjo throughout Logan County.

He wrote his first song in second grade and hasn’t stopped yet – with “writing” being the be-all and end-all.

“I just like to look at situations and turn them around a bit,” he said.

This is evident in the 13 tunes on the album.

There’s “Says You, Say Who, Says Me,” a shaggy take on relationships. And the country radio friendly “O’ This River”.

And “Sunday Morning Stoplight,” a meditation on faith and free well—in the time it takes for a traffic light to change.

There are the modern gospels Take Me Down to the Water and A Soul Can’t Rest in Peace Beside the Four Lane, which explore what modern intervention has done to timeless places like West Virginia.

Just in time for the Monongalia County Fair comes He Reeled Me In, the comedic, gripping story of a father trying to save face in front of his kids halfway through.

Ron Sowell, musical director of West Virginia Public Radio’s landmark show Mountain Stage, produced the album.

“Chris brings a real perspective with his writing,” said Sowell, who, in his dual role as guitarist in the radio show’s house band, has worked with artists as diverse as Odetta, Arlo Guthrie, Bruce Hornsby and Taj Mahal.

“Every song is like a novel.”

One song at a time, one gig at a time, that’s how Haddox works these days.

“I organize some shows in Northern Virginia,” he said.

Northern Ireland too?

“Lets see what happens.”

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