Happy Birthday Valerie Gabeheart was born, February 22, 1961 and was raised in Hurricane, West Virginia. Valerie grew up watching local bluegrass musicians perform at a restaurant owned by her parents. At the age of eight, Valerie learned to play the guitar and made her debut at the Mountaineer Opry House in Milton, West Virginia, singing the Osborne Brothers’ hit “Ruby”. Although she enjoyed playing the guitar and singing, after her parents sold the restaurant she spent most of her teenage years performing with her high school marching band, playing drums and leading the band as drum majorette. Valerie was also quite an athlete, competing in girl’s basketball and track, winning several track meets throwing the discus.
When Jim and Valerie met and discovered their mutual interest in bluegrass music, a lifetime partnership was formed. Jim and Valerie married in 1981, while both were sophomores at Marshall University. They formed STEADFAST in 1982. Being relatively inexperienced at the time, Valerie began in a supportive role and was not the group’s primary lead vocalist. However, it quickly became apparent that the quality of her voice and the unusual (at that time) circumstance of a female vocalist in bluegrass made the group stand out from other groups in the area. Together with her solid rhythm guitar playing, Valerie’s voice quickly became the most recognizable part of STEADFAST’s sound. During the recording of the group’s first album in Nashville, a professional musician who was observing the recording referred to Valerie as “one-take Valerie”, a compliment to her flawless delivery. In its review of the album, Bluegrass Unlimited Magazine called Valerie a “gutty, dynamic singer” with “major-league talent”. In addition to her own projects, Valerie has been invited to contribute harmony vocals to enhance other recordings. While she could have gained fame and fortune through her voice, Valerie’s values and priorities have earned her greater rewards as a wife, mother, and servant to all.

About the author

I enjoy researching Bluegrass, Bluegrass Gospel, and Country birthdays, anniversaries and interesting trivia dates. I am a piano/organ performance major who has taught privately and served as church accompanist since 1968 in North Carolina and Central Kentucky. Although classically trained, I appreciate all genres of music. My mother, who was also a church musician and taught public school music grades K-12, knew that Bluegrass music was the purest American music. She always introduced her students to this fine genre and began my musical studies with her at age 2. Bach to Berachah Valley, Mozart to Jimmy Martin, Sibelius to Stanley Brothers, the list goes on, I hope you find some moments of enjoyment and learn a few interesting facts along the way.
I am thankful for the many resources we have at our fingertips including Google. FaceBook and BluegrassBios by Wayne Rice. It was he who inspired me to tackle the task of trying to pass on knowledge about Bluegrass music. Thanks Wayne~!
Lou Ellen Wilkie

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