Charles Gorby – Our Founder

Charles Gorby, a well-known personality from South Charleston, WV, was born in 1910 in New Martinsville, WV, as the son of Charles Thomas and Emma Gorby.

He attended Magnolia High School where he played football, basketball, and trumpet in the high school band. At over six feet tall, he was known as the tallest boy on either side of the Ohio River between Parkersburg and Wheeling WV. His senior year in high school found him named as an All-State football player.

He later attended Ohio University at Athens, where he studied Industrial Arts. At the University, Gorby pursued his love of music and sport by playing in the band, running track and playing football. A founding member of Kappa Kappa Psi, and later part of Phi Kappa Alpha, he found an outlet for his musical talents by playing with the Sammy Kay Dance Band. While at Ohio U. Mr. Gorby met the lovely Mary Elizabeth Madigan, whose father was a railroad engineer, and the two were soon married.

Charles Gorby came to South Charleston, West Virginia in 1932, when the opportunity to teach at the local high school became available. A well-rounded educator, Charles taught shop, became the assistant football coach, and formed the first high school band, at the then-named Louden District High School.

When Louden District made the change to South Charleston High School, the question of school colors and songs came to mind. Charles Gorby stepped up to the challenge and helped to develop the fight song based on the one used by his alma mater, Ohio University. The school colors of orange and black were chosen after much discussion, while the black eagle was selected as school mascot. The school principal in those days was Robert L. Bryan.

His outstanding efforts as a band director were recognized by Capitol University in Columbus, OH who awarded Mr. Gorby an Honorary Bachelor’s Degree in Music several years later.

Charles Gorby’s love of music and high school bands proved irresistible. He took a position with King Musical Instruments, traveling the roads between Maryland, Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia, spreading the joy of music as he went. In each town, Charles could see the need for high school bands, and would help to set up the bands in all over the district. In this he founded 150 school bands.

When war was declared, the production of band instruments was discontinued. But Gorby was not away from the band business for very long, as the Navy came calling. Drafted into the United States Navy, Charles was once again the “leader of the band” at the Great Lakes Naval Training Facility, and later at Norfolk, Virginia.

After honorable discharge from the Navy, Charles Gorby came home to his beloved South Charleston, founding Gorby’s Music in 1947. The shop started as a one-room store above Vogue Drycleaners, later relocating to the corner of Seventh Avenue and E Street. As Gorby’s Music continued to grow, the store eventually found a permanent location on Seventh Avenue, where it continues to operate today.

Charles Gorby remained continually active in the South Charleston community. He served the people through the South Charleston Lion’s Club, the South Charleston Museum Foundation, the South Charleston Library Foundation, Thomas Memorial Hospital’s Board of Directors, and through his church, the First Baptist Church of South Charleston. He was awarded by the American Band Masters Association as an honorary member. In addition, he was elected twice to the Board of Directors of NAMM, the National Association of Music Merchants.

Mr. Gorby passed away in 2004, exactly one month after his wife passed.

Mr. Charles H. Gorby playing an antique trumpet in the museum he founded as part of Gorby’s Music.