Clarksburg Musician Pays Tribute to Appalachian Music

By Renee Courtney | July 17, 2013

Musician Gary Copeland, who has resided in Clarksburg since 2002, is an accomplished guitar player. Although recently he felt the need to expand his expertise.

“I just wanted to add a different dynamic to my music, and it grew into something much bigger,” Copeland said.

Copeland who is a native of Monongalia county, temporarily left the state in 2001 only to return when his father passed away. He and his wife chose to set up house in Stealey 11 years ago, due to the location being most conducive to both of their career goals.

He completed a West Virginia Folk Art Apprenticeship on banjo administered by the Augusta Heritage Center.

“Initially, I just wanted to change up my style,” Copeland said. “After 25 years of playing guitar, it had just become very monotonous.”

His new skills did, in fact, change his playing style, but now he finds himself playing banjo more often than he plays guitar.

“I have heard my technique referred to as the oldest known style of playing banjo,” Copeland said. “People call it clawhammer or frailing.”

Unlike the past when he played guitar as part of a band, Copeland is now a one-man show better known as Spence's Rye.

Spence's Rye pays homage to the  mountain music of the Appalachian region. His music is rooted in the tradition of a bygone era.

For the past two years, Spence's Rye has been playing live at various venues, including the Clarksburg Farmer's Market, and Main Street Cafe. He has also performed for the Heritage Craft Association at the Quiet Dell CCC Museum which was the catalyst for him being among the list of entertainers at our very own sesquicentennial last month.

Most recently he performed at the Heston Arts and Music Festival and the Whisky Rebellion Festival in Washington, Pa..

Spence's Rye will be opening for Black Twig Pickers, who are currently signed to Indie record label Thrill Jockey, at the West Virginia Mountain Music Outdoor Concert Series at Chestnut Ridge Park on Aug. 3.

Besides playing guitar and banjo, Copeland is also a singer-songwriter. Some of his music is original, while other songs are a mixture of his work and public domain material.

Copeland explained that in the folk music industry, artists will sometimes borrow from one another.

“One of  my songs includes a poem written by a man who was incarcerated in Leavenworth prison.” Copeland said.

Copeland released a live EP in February and a studio EP in April. Both are available to download online free of charge.

“I'm just kinda getting started with this,” said Copeland “My goal right now is to increase exposure and get my material out there.”

You can download Spence's Rye's free EPs at

Find out more about Spence's Rye by visiting
For booking contact Gary Copeland at

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