Brett Ratliff, May 16, 2018


Brett Ratliff, May 16, 2018


Whitesburg (Ky.)
Appalshop, Inc.
WMMT-FM (Radio station: Whitesburg, Ky.)
Morehead State University
Folk music
Appalshop Film & Video
Community radio
Lexington Community College
Prestonsburg (Ky.)
Bluegrass music
Art and music
Appalachian Region
Appalachian Region--Social conditions
Appalachian Region--Economic conditions
Kentucky Folklife Foundation
Old-time music
Goose Creek Symphony (Musical group)
Radio programs
Paintsville (Ky.)
Bluegrass musicians
Ratliff, Brett
Van Lear (Ky.)
Church music
Johnson County (Ky.)


Brett Ratliff talks about his life, beginning with his childhood in the tiny coal town of Van Lear, Kentucky. Ratliff had pride in his small community and his street, where every house had a member of his family living there. Ratliff talks about his journey with music, starting with hearing bluegrass on WMMT, the Appalshop radio station. He slowly but surely learned more and more until he created a bluegrass band. Ratliff also discusses his attempts at college, with his initial interest in doing robotics. However, he realized last minute that it was not a good fit. After a few false starts, he finally landed on production with a minor in traditional music at Morehead State University. Finally, Ratliff goes over his work with Appalshop, beginning with his first failed attempt at getting job there and then when he finally did get the job. In between those stories, Ratliff goes into detail about some of the challenges that Appalshop faced, such as politics, funding, and a widening age gap. Ratliff looks back at all of these experiences as difficult but formative and helped him get where he's working now, at the Hindman Settlement School.






Jeffrey A. Keith


Brett Ratliff

Interview Keyword

2008 Recession
Great Recession
Financial crisis--21st century
Audio production
Traditional music
Traditional musicians
Kentucky community colleges
Prestonsburg Community College
Artistic influences
Appalachian stereotypes
Eastern Kentucky stereotypes
Cultural identity
Bluegrass instruments
Kentucky Folklife Festival
Mayo Technical College
Musical influences
Appalachian families
Church of Christ
Religious music
Childhood memories




“Brett Ratliff, May 16, 2018,” Exploring the Legacies of Appalshop Oral History Project, accessed March 31, 2023,