Mandolin Morning Musings

n The Pen In Richmond VAI  

In The Pen (In Richmond VA)  Words: Rose Tate and Justin Mychals 

                                                      Music: Justin Mychals                             c2014 BMI 

I shared with you last time the story of my Grandfather Rose and my father’s ordeal of the hijacking, killing and subsequent coalmining/moonshining experiences.  Rose was sentenced to 18 years in the State Pen in Richmond Virginia. That left my father, aunts and uncles, of which there were 5, alone in the Southwest portion of Virginia in the Appalachian Mountains. 

After my father passed away we found in his papers a type written letter from my grandfather. It was a letter explaining what had happened that sent him to prison and, also a song that was written by him. The only person in the family that knew it existed was my dad’s oldest sister.  She and one of dad’s cousins explained the song and they told me the story of Rose’s time in prison and the circumstances around his early release. 

The story in the song gave us answers to some of the questions we had about the whole story. It also raised more questions than it answered. Seems that Rose received an 18 year sentence first time and only served a couple of years of that. He alludes to that in the song. Fact was after he had spent two years in the pen a young man that was with him that fateful night was in another gun battle and was shot. As he lay dying he asked his wife to fetch the sheriff and he admitted to the sheriff that indeed he was the one that had shot the men that my grandfather had been found guilty of murdering. The sheriff went to the judge and presented this new evidence to the judge and they secured a parole for Rose. 

Rose laments in the song how hard it was to find work as an ex-con and turns back to moonshinin’. A gentleman also wrote my grandfather a $2 bad check for payment for a jug of shine. He pulled a gun on the young man in front of the local hardware store and collected his money. This broke his parole! The sheriff was intimidated by an ex-con and was reluctant to confront Rose to arrest him. The sheriff enlisted the help of the madam of the working girls in town to capture the “notorious” gun wielding moonshiner. He was duped into a night of pleasure and heavy drinking set up by the sheriff and the the madam. Apparently the madam’s house was given certain leniencies for this favor. Passed out, Rose was captured and returned to the State Pen to finish out his original sentence that he should have been pardoned from but was only paroled. 

Upon hearing these stories and being presented with the song Rose had penned to explain his story I took the song and wrote the melody and chorus that is now “In the Pen In Richmond VA”. I tried to keep as much of the original writings of my grandfather as possible. I ended up changing only about 20 percent of the original text. 

I cannot explain to you what a thrill it is to have an original composition co-write with my grandfather that I have only met through the stories of the people that knew him before I was born. He was apparently quite the character and lived life to the fullest if not always the smartest. 

Next stop a co-write with my father about a coalmining accident.  Excited to share this story with you! Till next time……

Miners and Shiners  

Miners and Shiners    Words and Music Justin Mychals c2012 BMI 

My Grandfather passed away a year before I was born in 1957.  He was from a little town in Southwest Virginia called Clinchco. I wanted to know more about him so one day I asked my father what he was like and he started telling me this amazing story that started in that little town around 1927-28. 

Seems as though my grandfather was not too partial to going down into the coal mines and “diggin’ for  a livin’”! So, his main means of income to support his family was the other industry in the hills at that time, Moonshinin’.  He had 5 kids and my grandmother had just passed away a year earlier when my dad was 11. 

On a particular moonlit night Rose, my grandfather, was haulin’ some ‘shine thru the mountains in a horse drawn wagon.  A gang of thieves, hellbent on relieving Rose and his partner of their ‘shine, tried to hijack his cargo. A raging gun battle ensued and when the smoke cleared a couple of the would-be thieves had been shot and killed. My grandfather was arrested for shooting and killing them but not for runnin’ ‘shine. 

Rose was charged with manslaughter and at his trial he ingratiated himself to the judge by not being very cooperative. At one point the judged asked him if he owned a gun. He replied, ”Yes!”. When the judged asked what kind of gun he owned Rose replied “A damn good one!!!”  Needless to say he and the judge didn’t quite see eye to eye on things. 

Sentenced to 18 years in the Virginia State Pen, This left my father the oldest male to help support the 5 kids in the family. The children did what they could to survive and according to my father the people of the town and relatives did all they could to help “look after them.” My father had to go work in the mines at 11 years old in order to help feed the other kids. He worked in the ground for about 6 months. He told me he figured he was gonna die in the mines! On one particular day he got sick and coughed up a “wad o’ coal dust”!! That was enough of his coalmining career! 

Immediately Dad went to the ‘shiners that his daddy worked for and got a job “walkin a gallon of ‘shine” across the ridge and sellin’ it by the cup to the coalminers on lunch break. He described how frightening and exciting it was “walkin’ past the Revenue Men” with two miners  metal lunch buckets hangin’ across his shoulders on the end of a long notched stick. I asked him how that worked out for him and did he ever get caught. Dad told me he made a single dollar a day workin’ in the mines and $2 a day runnin’ ‘shine! He asked me “What the hell would you have done???” 

Check out the true story of my granddaddy Rose and my daddy in 1927 Appalachian Mountain coalmines in my song “Miners and Shiners”!!!! I hope you enjoy it! 

I’ll leave it there today but next time is the story of “In The Pen In Richmond VA.” My grandfather Rose actually wrote a song about his experience in jail and it was found in my father’s effects after his death. I can’t wait to jump into that one.  Until next time…….. 

Justin M 

Miners and Shiners from the CD Mandolin Morning artist Justin Mychals 

Miners and Shiners                         Words and Music Justin Mychals c2012 BMI 

Two things made a livin round here in the '20's 
Most folks were dirt poor none had plenty 
You broke your back down deep in those dark coal mines 
Or you hid in the hills and you brewed that  shine 

Grandaddy swore he' never crawl down in the ground 
So he brewed his shine and he spread it all around 
One night on a run he got jacked in the hills 
Four got away but two got killed 

A damn good gun he told the judge caused him to sin 
Grandaddy spent 4 year  in the Virginia state pen 
Left daddy in charge of 4 mouths to feed 
So daddy went down deep in the mines to earn his keep 

Daddy was a black faced, hard workin,  
Pushin the dust coal miner 
Granddaddy was a gun totin, son of bitching, 
Spit in your face moonshiner 
Ain't but two paths to follow and you gotta take one 
Do you follow his daddy or do you follow his son 

Daddy worked hard down in them deep dark mines 
While granddaddy was in Richmond doin his time 
Daddy worked like man to be eleven years old 
Made a dollar a day diggin that black dust gold 

Granddaddy got paroled lost 4 years in the pen 
Swore he was never goin back there agin 
Pulled a gun on a man down at the hardware store 
Law caught him drunk with the local town whore 

Daddy came up from hell and he spit out the dust 
Knew he'd wind up dead and full of rust 
He thought about granddaddy doin his time 
So he threw down his pick and he started runnin shine 




I Am Thankful Happy Thankgiving 

I Am Thankful 

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!! 

It is my most favorite holiday of the year. The house is a bustle with all the activities planned. Cyndee has been shopping for days to make sure she has all the ingredients to make everyone’s favorite dish. Her two children, daughter in law and Garrett, the grand son will all be there. Grandchildren always make this day extra special. 

Sometimes I think she is driving herself crazy and spoiling all of us to make sure the meal has something extra special for everyone at the table. But then, I see the care in her eyes as she prepares each dish with the love of a mother, a wife and a “Lolli” (that’s short for grandmother in this house). She talks about how each one of us loves the dish as she prepares it. 

All the plans have been made for our special family gatheringI  Our first order of business is to hold hands and give Praise to our Lord and to Thank Him.  I realize as I watch the table that this time is worth every bit of Cyndee’s efforts to give the ones she loves what they have requested for their Thanksgiving meal. I sometimes step back in amazement to watch her. 

Faith and Family, For this I am Thankful! 

I have four sons scattered across the country. I miss them tremendously. It’s then that I have to realize they are doing what they were raised to do. Which is dream, plan and follow that dream. That is what takes them far way from me. We will not share the same meal but we will all make time to speak on the phone and do a little Facetime.(Sometimes technology is pretty cool!) I especially like the facetime with Mille P and Rosie June, our other two grandchildren. Nothing is as special as when they say “Hey Pop! Whatcha’ doin!!” 

The sons will catch me up on their lives. I will catch them up on our life. And as I start to miss them and want them with us I realize they are there pursuing there dreams just like I get to do. 

One day soon Cyndee and I wish to have all of our children, all six of them to gather around the same table. ( We need to support the airlines and gas companies) 

Family, For this I am Thankful! 

After our Thanksgiving Midday meal. Cyndee and I will head off to my cousins get together where we will undoubtedly gorge ourselves again because they have the best broccoli casserole and their devilled eggs are as outstanding as Cyndee’s! And, who in their right mind could turn down deviled eggs twice in one day! 

My favorite part of this visit is when the talk turns to our childhood remembrances we had growing up! In the south all the cousins grew up and played together while the grownups did what ever they did! I just know it was a close family. Now the years and the growing families have allowed us all to drift apart.

The stories and incidences, yes incidences are hilarious to relive with each other. These cousin sessions have been known to go on into the wee hours of the morning as none of us want them to end. Many cups of coffee and pie have been consumed as one story leads to another and each cousin has a different take on the same thing!  Oh, so special times! The stories never get old. The photos never get old. This day keeps us young!!! It allows me to never forget who I am, where I came from, why I’m here and where I’m going. 

Family, For this I am Thankful. 

On Friday of this week I will return to the road and the life I love of making music!(Almost sounds like a song, don’t’ it)   I am blessed to do what I love for a living. It’s a challenge to motivate myself after a holiday to jump up outta bed and hit the road and start working again. Isn’t if for everyone???  I thank God for the opportunity. This week allows me to see and fellowship with co-workers, fellow musicians, and fans that have become friends! Thank you all that support me, listen to my songs, attend my shows, purchase merchandise, and share this life and dream with me. 

Friends, For That I am Thankful. 

Take a few moments to realize what you are Thankful for and share it with the ones you love!! 

Happy Thanksgiving 

God Bless 


Ramblin' Paul and His 3 String Guitar  

Ramblin’ Paul             Words Justin Mychals and Kenneth Smith     c 2012 BMI 

Paul walked the streets of my hometown for a good long while. Every time I ever saw him he always had on an overcoat and a ragged squashed fedora hat. His scruffy and weathered face carried a look of sadness that occasionally broke into a toothless grin but never lasted very long.  As a young musician in town, I always took notice that he always had a beat-up guitar hangin’ from his shoulder that always rested is arm as he lumbered up and down the streets of our small town. Needless to say, Paul was our town drunk and was always walking the streets or sittin’ on a street corner strumming that guitar. 

I noticed his guitar one day. It was scratched, dented and well-worn with many holes all over the body. The thing that stuck out mostly though was that it only had three strings on it and only two tuning keys. One of the strings was wrapped around a small nail he had driven into the head of the guitar. I found this kinda strange but it never seemed to bother ole Paul or slow him down from strumming a tune for you. 

At the drop of a hat Paul what “scrub one off fer ya”! He’d jump into an old timey tune, singing at the top of his lungs, bangin’ and beatin’ on that guitar like it was a mangy dog tryin’ to steal his last piece of meat from his dinner plate.  When Paul couldn’t find an audience on the street to stop and listen to him he would turn to the mannequins that posed in the windows in all the stores on the Main street of town. He had quite an audience built up from store to store. From the songs he would sing to his captured audience it was always apparent that Paul had quite a dislike for all of his female fans.  This caused a little disruption for the store owners and managers whenever Paul would pick their store for one of his concerts. 

One day he had a good crowd built up around a store window and he was crooning to a particularly svelte blond in a cute red and white summer print. We were egging him on to continue with another song and a gentleman kindly whispered to me that maybe my actions and suggestions weren’t the most mature or sensible things to be saying to Paul. He told me that few knew that Paul had once been a very talented and sought after guitar talent that had graced the stage of the “Grand Ole Opry” for a couple of years.  I immediately stopped dead in my tracks and I remember, in an instant, seeing a completely different man holding that guitar with only three strings on it.  

As I grew up and finally matured in life I would think back a lot to Paul and his life that he lived on the streets of my hometown. The burning question that I could never let go of was, what happened in his life that took him from the pinnacle of his profession, The Grand Ole Opry, to singing for mannequins in a store window? 

As I became a songwriter the story of Paul and his three-string guitar was never far from my soul! His story always haunted me and intrigued me at the same time! “Ramblin Paul” deals with that haunt and mystery! I knew little of him and most of the song is only what I imagined happened to him. Hopefully this song will keep the memory of this troubled street minstrel alive. I still would love to have heard him when he had all six strings on that ole beat-up guitar and tuned it up to play for everyone. My bet is, it was glorious!! 

Download Ramblin’ Paul and take a trip back in time to live life of a street minstrel! 

May God Bless Ramblin Paul!

Welcome To My First Mandolin Mornin' Musings 

Mandolin Mornin’ Musings        Justin Mychals 

Nov 3, 2018 

Hey Everyone, 

Welcome to my first ever, Mandolin Mornin’ Musings Blog Post.  This is my first attempt to blog on a regular basis and connect my world with y’all. 

I grew up in the hills of East Tennessee just a few miles from the Virginia border. Being raised in Kingsport, Tn. I refer to myself as a “small town City Hillbilly”! East Tennessee is a great area to be from especially if you are a musician. Kingsport and the surrounding area is alive with many talented and famous musicians. Dolly Parton grew up just down the road in Sevierville in the foothills of the Smokey Mountains.   The Carter Family started the “the Big Bang of Country Music” with their recordings along with Jimmy Rodgers in Bristol in 1927! Who hasn’t sung “You Are My Sunshine” at some point in their life!!  Johnny Cash chose the Carter Fold for his last show in Hiltons, Va. The list could go on and on of the talented musicians that rock this area from Allison Krauss’ Union Station, The Grand Ole Opry,  to the rock band Kansas and Jackyll. The musical heritage is strong in these parts!! 

Twenty miles up the road from Kingsport is Bristol Tn, aptly named the “Birthplace of Country Music” because of the aforementioned recordings from 1927 and home of the very cool 3 day music festival “Bristol Rhythm and Roots”!  Forming the last point of the Tri-Cities area is Johnson City Tn. Yes, the same Johnson City mentioned in the “Wagon Wheel” song!  JC is the home of one of the coolest and most famous listening rooms in the entire country, “The Down Home”.  It’s a must stop when you visit our area.  East Tennessee State University is famous for their Bluegrass Music degree. Young folks can come to college and learn art and history of Bluegrass Music! How Awesome is that!!!!! 

Many famous, well known and talented artists are from this area and continue to ply their craft here. All are extremely talented and I’m very blessed to call many of them my friends. To be taught, perform with, and influenced by these people is a life most would only dream of and I get to live it everyday. 

I’m proud of my mountain heritage, my family, and the many friends that I have here. I cherish them all! This is where my love of family, Country and music took root and grew to where it is today. This blog is designed to share those stories of family, culture, fun, triumph and tragedies. The people I have grown up with and continue to meet through my travels have given me a rich life of songs and stories to share with y’all. So, Welcome to Mandolin Mornin’ Musings. I hope your as excited about the this journey as I am to be drivin’ the bus!!! See ya next weekend as I share story of Ramblin’ Paul.