CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Michael Lipton admits he's not so great at doing the "WV Mambo."
He wrote the catchy song his band, The Carpenter Ants, will roll out during Friday's Live on the Levee. And he can play his guitar parts just fine. But he'll leave the dancing to choreographer Brittany Javins and the crowd, which will be encouraged to give it a try.
Lipton, a longtime member of the Ants and the Mountain Stage band, also heads the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame. He wrote the song for a music camp he led in Mingo County recently.
The camp was part of a summer series offered by the ABLE Families organization there, a nonprofit, faith-based agency founded in 1995 by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Wheeling. Among programs offered by ABLE Families is a series of free summer camps.
Lipton spent a week teaching 15 campers ranging in age from fourth grade to teenagers about West Virginia's musical heritage. He wrote "WV Mambo" to be part of the program.
"I don't write a lot and it takes me a long time, so it was interesting to write on deadline," he said. "I feel like I lucked out - it turned out better than I expected."
"I tried to make the song fun but also informational," Lipton said.
"I kind of on purpose used the 'h' word in it," he added, referring to the expression "hillbilly shake" in the chorus.
"Maybe because I wasn't born here - but I've lived here for 40 years - I'm kind of a big proponent of being proud of that word. And it opened up a discussion with those kids about it."
Lipton thought it would be fun to incorporate movement with the song, so he asked Javins, who works for FestivALL and is a dancer, to come along and teach a dance to go with the song. And then it turned into a production.
"It was way more ambitious than I planned," Lipton said.
He got a Huntington film crew to make a video of the kids and enlisted musician buddies such as fiddler Bobby Taylor, guitarist Ron Sowell and Mountain Stage host Larry Groce, who sang the song.
An impromptu lyric change by Groce led to an invitation for another musician.
The verse mentions some West Virginia native musicians such as Billy Edd Wheeler, Little Jimmy Dickens, Brad Paisley and Bill Withers. Groce tossed in Landau Eugene Murphy Jr. during a rehearsal, and the name of the Logan County "America's Got Talent" winner stuck.