Joe McHugh has been telling stories to people young and old for forty years. His storytelling has been described as “inspired,” “genuine,” and “brimming with wit and humor.” He draws on a treasure trove of funny stories, personal anecdotes, myths, ballads, poems, and tales of the supernatural.

The youngest member of a lively Irish-American family, his grandparents owned a popular restaurant/tavern called Aunt Kate’s in the lake country of northwestern New Jersey, Joe learned first-hand how to tell entertaining stories.

Olympia Old-Time Music Festival, The Forked Deer. Joe McHugh, fiddle, Paula McHugh, banjo, Forrest Newton, guitar. Filmed by Carla Wulfsburg

In 1970 when he was twenty, he went “back to the land” purchasing an eighty-acre farm in central West Virginia where he quickly fell in love with the stories, music, and traditions of the Appalachian mountains. After spending a year in Scotland exploring the legends and fiddle music of the Highlands, he returned to his beloved mountains to found the Youth Museum of Southern West Virginia, using his storytelling and musical skills to imbue young people with a love of history. In 1988 he moved to northern California with his wife Paula McHugh to direct a summer storytelling camp for children, write radio plays, and study the stories and ballads of the Gold Rush. Having told stories for so many years, he now speaks at conferences about the art and practice of storytelling in the electronic age and how stories can nourish the imagination and foster a sense of belonging.

Joe McHugh Storyteller

“McHugh is very good at what he does. His pleasant voice projects a relaxed, likeable persona that makes your want to hear more.” 
~ Jo Ashburn, Suttertown News, Sacramento, California

“With his dancing eyes, Joe McHugh led the audience spellbound through the tale.
~ Walt Wiley, Sacramento Bee 

“I am pleased to note Joe McHugh’s continued success as an authentic Appalachian storyteller. Part of our mission at the Department of Culture and History is the promotion of West Virgina folklife. I am proud to say Joe McHugh represents the best of our traditional mountain culture.”
~Norman L. Fagan, Former Commissioner WV Department of Culture and History, Charleston, West Virginia