Editor's note: This is part of a regular series called "On the Porch," which will feature interesting people throughout the area.
Bob Bright is a hard man to keep up with - he's turning 82 this year, but his social calendar is a busy one! Every week he has a regular Mingo band rehearsal, he assists at the Pocahontas Promanaders' squaredancing workshop in Marlinton, he plays at church on Sunday and travels to every bluegrass music picking event he can in Elkins, Mill Creek and Marlinton.
Music entered the life of Robert E. "Bob" Bright as a very young boy living in Riverside, a community in Pocahontas County. His father loved to listen to Nashville music on the radio.
Bob Bright, of Mingo, has been an active member of the Pocahontas Promanaders since it started in Marlinton in 1985. He’s shown here recently with his dancing partner.
Bright remembers hearing "Wild Wood Flower" on the radio in the mid-1930s.
"Buddy Starcher would play blue grass from the station in Harrisonburg, Va. I wanted to learn that song the first time I heard it!" Bright said.
He mastered "Wild Wood Flower" on guitar at age 9, and the song is still a favorite that he plays today.
"'Pistol Packin' Mama' was the first song I learned to actually pick on guitar," Bright continued. "I still play the song today, too."
Both of his older brothers, Luther and Ted, played guitar and mandolin, and his sister Lucille played piano.
"I was 9 years old and Lucille was learning guitar at the time. I thought that if she could to learn to play, I could, too," he said.
Every Sunday afternoon as teenagers in the 1940s, Bright and friends would perform at Riverside.
"Bob Clendenin would carry in Dude Irvin and his wheelchair. Along with Kermit Boggs, we all played guitar and mandolin, and Arnold Gordon was on steel guitar.
"Dude Irvin was in a wheelchair, he was a cripple all his life. He played guitar and mandolin really well. All he ever did was play music. He was good," Bright said. "That's when I picked up a lot on the mandolin, from Dude - he was always learning something new. He always kept on learning."
Bright has been an active member of the Pocahontas Promanaders since it started in Marlinton in 1985. The traditional square dancing group, which sponsors workshops and monthly dances, might end this year with the retirement of Billie Huffman. He has been calling for the group regularly for 30 years, commuting from Mt. Nebo.
Bright moved to Mingo at age 20 to run the farm for his sister and husband, Lucille and Clinton Simmons, and he's the caretaker of the Simmons-Mingo Cave.
For many years, Bright and other musicians performed at the Wool Fair in Mingo as the Woody Simmons Band.
"On Sunday afternoons at the Beale Store, Woody Simmons would usually be there, Blackie Cool, Jenks Morris, of Webster Springs, and Blyn Chapman, of Beverly," he said.
The Sunday-afternoon picking tradition continues at the Mingo Community Center, the old Mingo School. It's set rain or shine from 2 to 4 p.m.
Hosted by Bright and sponsored by the Mingo Community Center, the gathering welcomes all to "Pickin' in Mingo," where listeners and singers are welcome.