Fairmont State University student Bill Stalnaker presented a keynote address Friday, March 31, at the Delta Blues Symposium XII at Arkansas State University.
Stalnaker presented, "From West Point to West Virginia," the story of Johnnie Johnson's family's migration to West Virginia. Stalnaker is a blues musician and founder of the Johnnie Johnson Blues & Jazz Festival. Johnson, known by many as the Father of Rock & Roll, was born in Fairmont on July 8, 1924. He went on to become one of the world's leading blues and jazz piano players and is the "Johnnie" in Chuck Berry's song "Johnnie B. Goode." Johnson was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2001.
Stalnaker and Johnson were close personal friends and worked together on the festival, a radio program called "Father and Sons" and the development of a blues history class at FSU. Johnson died on April 13, 2005. Stalnaker went on to produce a segment for the 2006 Grammy Awards honoring Johnson. He is currently planning the fifth annual Johnnie Johnson Blues & Jazz Festival, which will take place in Fairmont July 21-23.