Monday, June 9, 2014

West Virginia: The Men in Sago Mine

With day two of our look at West Virginia songs, today’s selection is song written and performed by Chapmanville native Jeff Ellis. I remember hearing Ellis perform “The Men in Sago Mine” on West Virginia Public Radio’s Mountain Stage back in 2008. Ellis wrote the song while he and his reserve unit were stationed in Kuwait as part of Iraqi Operation Freedom.

According to Ellis, he printed off three stories regarding the 2006 Sago Mine Disaster in Upsher County, West Virginia. By synthesizing what he was reading six thousand miles from the disaster, “The Men in the Sago Mine” was born. Ellis released the song on his 2008 CD “Covering the Distance.”

The tragedy of the disaster rocked the world as it was incorrectly reported that all 13 trapped miners had survived. Unfortunately, only one man, Randal L. McCloy, Jr., survived the ordeal. The remaining twelve succumbed to gas and smoke awaiting a rescue that didn’t come soon enough. As mentioned in the song, then Governor Joe Manchin was propelled into the national spotlight during the ordeal. The disaster occurred during the beginning of his second year in office.

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