Benefit concert planned for first responders of Marlinton fire

At 7:30 p.m. Saturday, guitar virtuoso Johnny Compton returns to Marlinton with the Charleston-based Diablo Blues Band.

They’ll be joined by special guests, the Black Mountain Bluegrass Boys. Proceeds from this special evening of blues and bluegrass at the historic Pocahontas County Opera House will benefit the brave men and women who fought the fire that devastated downtown Marlinton in mid-November.

Advance tickets are available at the Fourth Avenue Gallery in Marlinton. Tickets are $8. Children 12 and under are admitted free of charge. All proceeds will be donated the local fire and rescue squads that expended tremendous resources to fight the Marlinton blaze.

The Diablo Blues Band was formed in 2010 by Johnny “Hurricane” Compton and Tommy Fountaine, who wanted to put together a band that harkened back to the early days of the blues, while still retaining a modern edge. They were joined by Kevin Kidd, whose low and slow approach to bass playing melded seamlessly with Fountaine’s solid drumming. Next came John “The Mudcat” Chickogee on the harmonica. Chickogee grew up in Chicago, where he shared stages with some of the biggest names in the blues, most notably Hound Dog Taylor and Buddy Guy.

Terry Lowry, a Charleston-area veteran guitarist who had been a part of the Leon Waters Blues Band for many years, rounds out the band’s sound, while Jessica Lowe is featured on lead vocals. In the past two years, Diablo has risen to the top of the West Virginia blues scene with their unwavering love of the blues and live performance. They are currently in pre-production for their first album.

The Black Mountain Bluegrass Boys are among West Virginia’s longest-running bluegrass bands. The group first organized in 1968 around the foursome of Richard Hefner (banjo/tenor vocal), his brother Bill Hefner (guitar/mandolin/baritone vocal), their late uncle Glenn “Dude” Irvine (mandolin) and the late Harley Carpenter (guitar/lead vocal). They took their name from Black Mountain in their native Pocahontas County.

For five years the group worked a weekly radio show on WVAR in Richwood. They also made regular appearances at local events and regional bluegrass festivals. In the mid-1970s they recorded a pair of albums: “Million Lonely Days” and “Talk of the County.” More recent albums include “Black Mountain Bluegrass Boys 1968-1973,” “Live at Midnight,” “Live at The Opera House” and “Live at Greenbrier Valley Theatre.”

As with many bands, the Black Mountain Bluegrass Boys have had changes in personnel over the years. Richard Hefner remains as the lone original member. Hefner’s traditional bluegrass banjo playing and tenor vocals have contributed both continuity and much of the “high lonesome” sound for which the band has become so well-known. He has displayed his banjo skills many times as a victor in contests and at the Vandalia


Chris Nickell, from Monroe County, contributes driving lead and rhythm guitar work as well as lead vocals. Rick Carpenter – son of founding member Harley Carpenter – picks a fine mandolin and sings lead and baritone vocals. Bass player Mike Smith, of Culloden, has worked with such notables as Larry Sparks, Dave Evans and the Goins Brothers.

The Pocahontas County Opera House is located at 818 Third Ave. in Marlinton. Performances at the Opera House are informal, family friendly and open to all. The entrance and main seating are accessible to persons with disabilities. Persons with disabilities are encouraged to attend; special accommodations can be arranged upon request by calling 304-799-6645.