Gospel Musician In Millstone, Kentucky Tries To Salvage Family’s Flood-Ravaged Music Products

This tale originally aired in the Nov. 18, 2022 episode of Inside Appalachia.

On July 28, communities all around southeast Kentucky ended up hit with unprecedented flooding. People dropped households, vehicles, spouse and children photographs. A lot of musicians missing devices, and that intended they could not participate in cultural traditions that define their life. But via the generosity of local community users, some musicians have been able to reconnect with their new music exercise, locating ease and comfort and even pleasure.

Dean McBee was one musician who was strike tough by the flood. McBee life in Millstone, an old coal camp that sits together the Kentucky river. As he stood in his garden, McBee counted up all the properties in this neighborhood that have been misplaced. “Five, six, 7, eight, nine,” Dean claimed. “Ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen in Millstone.” In a community of significantly less than 100, 13 is a staggering quantity.

McBee grew up in Millstone. When he moved back to Millstone from South Carolina 25 yrs ago to be closer to his ageing mom and dad, he bought the house proper future to theirs. Just after his mother and father handed, McBee’s sister moved into the loved ones dwelling. Her property was a single of the one’s lost to the flood. Hunting at where the dwelling when stood, McBee reflected on its present-day condition. “Just an empty good deal now,” McBee stated. “This is exactly where we grew up, appropriate right here.”

The flood filled McBee’s household with about six feet of drinking water, but he and his spouse prepare to rebuild. McBee has performed a great deal of operate gutting the initially ground and treating for mold. McBee cautioned me as we walked up the wobbly stairs into the home to check out out his progress. “Just be watchful on these measures, they are just leaning right here,” McBee reported.

Then he opened the door and showed the inside of. “Tore it all out. And I’ll set all the joists back, put the plywood on it, sheetrock and insulation.” McBee reported. The inside of of the house was down to the studs. All of the flooring had been ripped out so that the property had just a filth floor.

But while McBee had manufactured some progress on his property, he hadn’t been able to give significantly time to the picket drop out back. That was his audio home. The outside the house of the shed was embellished with forged iron skillets, old license plates, and carved wooden animals. “My dad’s brother carved the bear. Then my father did the fish and the birds,” McBee claimed.

Nicole Musgrave


West Virginia Community Broadcasting

McBee’s new music drop that sits at the rear of his property. The lose was stuffed with McBee’s music products and instruments, some of which experienced been his late father’s. The doorway of the get rid of sits off the hinges, making it possible for enhanced air move to aid lower down on mold progress.

Then McBee showed the inside of of the shed. “This is my audio stuff appropriate right here,” McBee reported. “Mixer boards. My mic, my studio microphone — I never know where it is at in here. I’m gradually receiving things out of it below.”

Amplifiers and speakers have been tossed close to on their sides. Dried mud was caked around almost everything. Steel elements had been rusted and black mildew had started off expanding on the partitions. The license plates that hung above the door confirmed how superior the water rose. “It acquired up to the license plates, the drinking water did. It was to the ceiling simply because see here, the mild?” McBee reported as he pointed to the mild on the drooping ceiling supporter. “It experienced water in it, see there?”

In the little camper that McBee and his wife are living in now, McBee informed me how he got into participating in guitar.

“My father performed music. And I commenced when I was an early age, he commenced me out,” McBee said. “I commenced when I was almost certainly about 8 many years aged, teaching me the basics of a flat major. Then when I was likely about 12, he brought a bass guitar household and released me to a bass guitar. And I actually appreciated it and which is what I trapped with.”

McBee’s father was a perfectly-known flat top guitar participant in the local community. He performed place songs in the bars and nightclubs all around town. But then he acquired saved, investing in late nights at the bar for early mornings at church. Soon after that, he designed one particular ask for to McBee.

“He questioned me one particular matter. He stated, ‘Son, guarantee me that you will not acquire your expertise into the bars, into the nightclubs.’ And I promised him that. And I engage in gospel, strictly gospel,” McBee explained.

As a younger boy, McBee traveled with his father to various church buildings to enjoy. “Evangelists would appear in and they would say, ‘Well, occur and aid us with the audio.’ And we would go. For that week we’d be in revival with them and we’d enable them with the songs,” McBee mentioned. “And that’s what we did, we just went to different churches…and just have a superior time with the Lord.”

As an grownup, McBee ongoing to perform gospel songs with his father. For 20 many years, they ended up component of a group that traveled to neighboring counties, with McBee on bass and his dad on flat top rated guitar. When McBee’s father handed away various years back, his guitars and amplifiers went to McBee. McBee experienced been preserving them in the audio drop. It was crammed with his family’s historical past of producing songs. The day of the flood, anything floated in the water for about 13 several hours. McBee mentioned it has been painful to see his dad’s guitars and amplifiers in this kind of tough shape.

“I packed these guitars and amplifiers for him when I commenced about 11 or 12 a long time aged,” McBee mentioned, choking back tears. “And there are other guitars out there like them. But it is not that guitar. Cash could not purchase them again.”

Dean McBee cleans a mixer board in his garage.jpg

Nicole Musgrave


West Virginia General public Broadcasting

Dean McBee cleans a mixer board in his garage. The mixer board was weakened in the July 28 flood. McBee has been hoping to help you save the board, working with a spray cleansing answer and a small paint brush to crystal clear away mud and dirt.

All of McBee’s guitars, which includes his dad’s, have been drying out at his other sister’s property. He has hope that some of them can be saved. McBee explained his dad’s amplifiers are much too far absent to correct. But he prepared to retain them anyway.

“And folks say, ‘What are you gonna do with them?’ I say, ‘They’ll sit ideal there. I will glimpse at them each day. Due to the fact as very long as I bought them, I bought my father,’” McBee claimed.

There have been some vibrant spots for McBee since the flood. A close friend purchased him a new bass and amplifier to swap kinds he misplaced. Now, he’s been capable to participate in each Sunday at church once more. And McBee’s sister cleaned up his flat leading guitar. He experienced a short while ago gotten it back again from her, and previously he felt aid becoming equipped to play yet again.

“I’m not down and out no a lot more,” McBee reported. “When I’m sensation down, I can go get my guitar. And it just can make me sense better when I can perform my guitar.”


This tale is portion of the Within Appalachia Folkways Reporting Job, a partnership with West Virginia Community Broadcasting’s Inside of Appalachia and the Folklife Plan of the West Virginia Humanities Council.

The Folkways Reporting Task is produced attainable in component with help from Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies to the West Virginia General public Broadcasting Foundation. Subscribe to the podcast to hear more tales of Appalachian folklife, arts, and lifestyle.