[caption id="attachment_80996" align="aligncenter" width="600"]<img src="https:\/\/pocahontastimes.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/sites\/25\/2021\/04\/Richard-Hefner.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="467" class="size-full wp-image-80996" \/> Traditional banjo player Richard Hefner performed several of his favorite tunes in the first episode of the Pocahontas County Opera House Story Session series. Photo courtesy of Kurt Schachner[\/caption]\r\n\r\nSuzanne Stewart\r\nStaff Writer\r\n\r\nPocahontas County Opera House Story Session series debuted Sunday evening on the Opera House Facebook page \u2013 to the delight of hundreds of fans.\r\n\r\nArmed with his life stories, music and his banjo, Richard Hefner took the Opera House stage and kicked off his session with \u201cRed Rockin\u2019 Chair\u201d or \u201cSugar Babe.\u201d\r\n\r\n\u201cSherman Hammons is who I learned that from, and he called it \u2018Sugar Babe,\u2019\u201d Hefner said. \u201cThe Bluegrassers kind of changed it around a little bit and called it \u2018Red Rockin\u2019 Chair.\u2019\u201d\r\n\r\nHefner is a founding member of the Black Mountain Bluegrass Boys, West Virginia\u2019s longest-running bluegrass band which was organized in 1968. He was joined then by his brother Bill, their late uncle Glenn \u201cDude\u201d Irvine and the late Harley Carpenter.\r\n\r\nHefner is known for his traditional bluegrass banjo playing and tenor vocals. His banjo skills led him to contest victories many times, including the Vandalia Festival.\r\n\r\nWhile many folks consider Hefner to be the best West Virginia banjo player, he has his own take on who he would consider to be the best.\r\n\r\n\u201cI would say that the best banjo player that came out of the state of West Virginia was a friend of mine \u2013 Don Stover,\u201d he said. \u201cDon passed away quite a few years back. He was from Artie, down in Raleigh County, and he played banjo. He was the Lilly Brothers\u2019 banjo player for years and years, and he went off for a spell \u2013\u00a0a little bit less than a year or a year, I\u2019m not sure \u2013\u00a0and played with Bill Monroe in the fifties. He recorded some of Monroe\u2019s really good tunes while he was with him.\u201d\r\n\r\nDuring Hefner\u2019s career as a musician, he managed to play with Stover a few times and recalled a job from the 1970s that was one the highlights of his career.\r\n\r\n\u201cI really liked Don\u2019s picking,\u201d he said. \u201cI got to play bass with him on a few jobs, and one of the best times I ever had with him was when he started his own band in the seventies, and we played a job together in Pittsburgh for the United Mine Workers National Convention. We played and the Morris Brothers played, and Don and his band played there.\r\n\r\n\u201cWe stayed there for a week, and we didn\u2019t hardly have any fun,\u201d Hefner said, sarcastically.\r\n\r\n\u201cIt was a great time,\u201d he added.\r\n\r\nAfter reminiscing about Stover, Hefner performed one of his songs, \u201cBlack Diamond.\u201d\r\n\r\nThe beauty of Bluegrass songs is the story behind them. The problem with those stories sometimes is trying to figure out if they are true or not.\r\n\r\nBefore Hefner played his next song, \u201cLittle Maggie\u201d \u2013 a fan favorite \u2013 he told a story about his grandmother who taught the song to him.\r\n\r\n\u201cI always tell everybody that my grandmother was a banjo player, and she was,\u201d he said. \u201cMy grandmother on my mom\u2019s side \u2013 she lived on the side of the hill after you cross the bridge, going out of Marlinton and turn up toward Campbelltown. Her name was Florence Irvine, and she did play banjo.\r\n\r\n\u201cMy grandpa, Frank Irvine, played the fiddle, and they\u2019d stand out on the porch there and play, and people across the river over here would clap and holler,\u201d he continued. \u201cAlso, when they first got a crank phone, they\u2019d call up on the phone and they\u2019d play fiddle and banjo over the phone to folks.\u201d\r\n\r\nSadly, Frank passed away before Hefner was born, and Florence passed away when he was eight years old.\r\n\r\n\u201cI never remember her playing the banjo, and I\u2019m sure that she probably did,\u201d he said. \u201cShe didn\u2019t lay around sick or anything. She had a massive heart attack and died at fifty-three years old.\r\n\r\n\u201cI tell everybody that my grandmother was a banjo player, and she played for the Cleveland Browns,\u201d he continued. \u201cShe was a star running back for the Cleveland Browns, and she won the first tough woman contest in West Virginia, too, in 1938, and she got traded to the Dallas Cowboys where she eventually became a Dallas cheerleader.\u201d\r\n\r\nHefner leaves it up to the listener to decide which parts of that story are true. One thing is for sure \u2013 Florence did teach him how to play \u201cLittle Maggie.\u201d\r\n\r\nHe ended this performance with the song \u201cHigh on the Mountain.\u201d\r\n\r\nHefner is still an active member of The Black Mountain Bluegrass Boys and performs with the group at local events and informal music jams at his home in Renick, where he lives with his wife, Maddy.