The community of first generation bluegrass heroes got a good bit smaller today. Melvin Goins has passed away after more than 65 years of performing bluegrass music. He was 83 years of age and touring in Canada when he died.
Growing up in West Virginia, Melvin and his younger brother Ray fell in love with the sounds they heard from the radio shows broadcast out of Bristol, VA, where they heard The Stanley Brothers and Flatt & Scruggs. They could also pick up the radio signal from Bluefield where the Lonesome Pine Fiddlers were working.
Before long both Goins boys were studying up on how to play the music. Though Melvin started with a fascination for the banjo, he abandoned it for the guitar once Ray began to to pick up the roll style himself. The beginnings of The Goins Brothers was laid listening to those old radio shows, and getting to see some of these artists in person.
They performed as teenagers around home, and got to play their first show on the radio in 1951. But their early success was sidelined when Ray took the banjo job with the Lonesome Pine Fiddlers a year later when he was only 16. When the band moved on to Detroit, Ray stayed home and he and Melvin worked as The Shenandoah Playboys, until the Fiddlers came calling again a few years later asking both boys to join their band. The Goins Brothers resettled in Kentucky.
In the ’70s and ’80s, Melvin got into event promotion, putting on bluegrass festivals in West Virginia, Kentucky, and Ohio.
The Goins Brothers reformed when Melvin left Ralph, and they performed and recorded together until Ray’s health began to fail him in the mid-’90s. They recorded more than 30 albums during their time together, and played just about everywhere bluegrass was performed around the world. It was during this time that television helped the brothers reach an even wider audience, and their Saturday program ran of many years.
Melvin continued on when Ray retired, working a heavy schedule each year. Ray died from cancer in 2007.
They never turned their back on the old time bluegrass sound, even when popular music and some grass acts looked elsewhere.
Fans, friends, and fellow musicians will remember Melvin for his good humor and hard-working attitude. He never wanted to stop playing music, and it seems like he was at it until his final breath. He is the very definition of a bluegrass legend, and a true pioneer in our music.
Details about funeral arrangements have not been announced.
R.I.P., Melvin Goins.