Brad Paisley is the Proudest West Virginian — Country Star Shares State, Small Town Roots With Lady Gaga — Putting WV On Everything: “Pitt Fans Aren’t Happy”

Lady Gaga isn’t the only celebrity with roots in the Moundsville, WV area, subject of our documentary about a classic American town, which you can still rent for $3.99 here.

Amazingly, with a population of only 1.8 million, West Virginia can claim the roots of two of the biggest musical superstars on the planet.

Driving into Glen Dale, part of greater Moundsville, there is a sign that says: “Home of Brad Paisley.” It’s hard to miss, and there’s a reason for the pride: Country star Paisley just might be the West Virginianest West Virginian of them all.

His dad started taking him to Mountaineer football games when he was five. On game day, the stadium in Morgantown is the biggest city in the state, he notes. He proudly sings “Country Roads” and wears the blue and yellow WV hat all over the world. He would have attended WVU but instead went to Nashville to pursue his musical career. His dad, he says, puts WV on everything. “If it doesn’t have a WV on it, it will,” he says. When you wear a WV hat, Paisley says, “you’re not saying this is my team, you’re saying this is my state.” He likes to come back, he told West Virginia University’s magazine‘s Jake Stump, because:

My parents still live here, and a lot of my friends are still here. West Virginia isn’t an easy place to forget. It’s too ideal. It’s a wonderful place to grow up. You can’t just move on and not want some part of that in your life.

Paisley was born in Glen Dale. He’s the only son of a Dept. of Transportation worker and a schoolteacher, and, like Lady Gaga’s mom Cynthia, he is a graduate of John Marshall high school. His grandfather Warren Jarvis taught him to play guitar. The talent was obvious, electric. Fame spread like wildfire. Paisley played at churches, rotary clubs and Christmas and Mother’s Day parties. An invite to the radio station in Wheeling followed, which led to regular appearances on a popular variety show called Jamboree USA.

He moved to Nashville to study and play music. Stardom followed: over 12 million albums, three Grammys, and two American Music and 14 Academy of Country Music awards. Membership in the Grand Ole Opry. He’s written songs — like “Behind the Clouds” and “Find Yourself” for the Cars movies made by Pixar.

You can take the kid out of WV, but you can’t take WV out of the kid. Paisley even gets instruments made in Moundsville, by guitar maker Bill Crook.

Bill Crook, the guy who builds me guitars, built me a gold-and-blue Telecaster in gold-and-blue paisley print. I said, “You should stick a WV on that,” because he’s from here, too. He lives in Moundsville. And so, there it was. It looked great. But I soon realized that we’re not loved by everyone when I play guitar like that on TV. I always think, “This will be really cool.” And then you read Twitter. And Pitt fans aren’t happy.

And, of course, he loves to play John Denver’s iconic “Country Roads” all over the world. In the state, the song is

like the national anthem. It’s a great song. It’s iconic. It’s sort of a worldwide anthem, and I don’t understand why it means anything to anyone who’s not from here. But it does. And it’s a really proud thing for us. It’s such an iconic and wonderful piece of country music history that really is about love for this state. As you imagine, it means a lot to me.

And Paisley even refers to his hometown in his music. In the song “Letter to Me”, a missive to his 17-year-old self, he refers to local streets and thanks his teacher Mrs. Brinkman at John Marshall:

At the stop sign at Tomlinson and Eighth
Always stop completely, don’t just tap your brakes.
And when you get a date with Bridgett make sure the tank is full.
On second thought forget it. That one turns out kinda cool.

Each and every time you have a fight
Just assume you’re wrong and dad is right.
And you should really thank Mrs. Brinkman:
She spends so much extra time.
It’s like she sees the diamond underneath,
And she’s polishing you ’til you shine.

And you should really thank Mrs. Brinkman:
She spends so much extra time.
It’s like she sees the diamond underneath,
And she’s polishing you ’til you shine.

Diamonds, of course, are made out of carbon, just like coal. West Virginia is famous for mining the black rock. It’s also got some gems, and as Paisley points out, sometimes all you need is a little polishing.

John W. Miller




  1. My mother’s favorite cousin Hank Goddard was Brad’s guitar teacher. Brad and Hank came to a family reunion and Brad played and sang for us. I told everyone to remember this boy’s name, he’s going to Nashville. I’m proud to say he did!!!!!!!

  2. John, Would you be interested in a short story that I wrote several months ago? I titled it, “Bubba’s Bounty” and it features Brad Paisley. I was born in Glen Dale. Phil Yoho    You mention me in your last January 24th issue.

  3. This is great , I have a friend that sai Brad and his friends use to hang out at Dairy Queen and just knew he’d be famous some day , Little Jimmy Dickkens was mighty proud of Brad Paisley . The last speeding ticket I got was in Glendale should have kept it for a souvenir. My hats off to Mr. Brad Paisley and others like him.

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