Restoring a sign of the times in Huntington

Sep 21, 2011 by

The Keith-Albee in downtown Huntington, W.Va., is one of the most distinctive buildings for 100 miles in any direction. For 83 years, the rococo theater flashed it’s name vertically via an antique, custom-made neon sign, as you can see in this video I did earlier this year in homage to a Huntington friend’s passing. But strong winds knocked the sign for a loop and off its moorings on July 8, 2011, and the lights went out on the theater sign.

This Friday, Sept. 23, 2011, at 6 p.m., the city hosts the Save Our Sign Benefit Concert, in hopes of  restoring the sign to its dashing-flashing glory. David Tyson and Bob Plymale, co-presidents of the Keith-Albee Foundation, say they hope to raise $28,500, the estimated cost of restoring the sign. Any funds above and beyond that will go to the Keith Albee Restoration Fund, according to a press release.

The event will include a silent auction, a three-set concert as well as historical video presentations about the origins of the Keith Albee, whose historic, over-the-top ornate stage and interior have hosted many of the major legends of America’s musical and theatrical scene for nigh on a century. Tickets to the event are $20 and can be purchased by calling 304-696-6656 or at

The opening act, Mystic Mountain Blueberry, will perform what sounds like a challenging mix of hip-hop, dance, funk, hillbilly and soul music, cooked up in Huntington —  or rather a place the band dubs “Hollerwood, USA.” They’ll be followed to the stage by Rebecca Lynn Howard, a 32-year-old Salyersville, Ky., native whose break came when recorded “Softly and Tenderly” for the soundtrack of the 1997 Robert Duvall movie, “The Apostle.”  She had songs cut by Trisha Yearwood (“I Don’t Paint Myself Into Corners”) and other country figures, then in 2002 Howard scored her own hit with “Forgive.”

The headliner is Rick Huckaby, not the former Marshall University football coach, but his son — or  “Huck” as they call the singer-songwriter down Nashville way. Huckaby wrote a top 20 single released by Trace Adkins in 2008, “Muddy Water.”  His latest  album is “Hittin’ My Stride.”

The event is sponsored by Clear Channel Radio, CSX transportation, The Herald Dispatch, Eagle Distributions, Heritage Farms, Minuet Men Press and Kindred Communications.

P.S.:  I originally cobbled together this video as a homage to a friend, a Huntington native, after her unexpected death earlier this year, as you’ll note by the closing text. I’m sure she’d be happy her video might help get some more folks out to help restore such signature signage to her hometown’s downtown.

Screen grab from video | Douglas Imbrogno


Screen grab from video | Douglas Imbrogno

1 Comment

  1. Errol Hess

    You’re bringing back old memories: Bradshaw Diehl, working at the job Corps in the old hotel, the barge bar up around 14th Street…