Staats enjoys life as UPS delivery driver, musician

Johnny Staats of Sandyville drives a UPS truck on weekdays and plays music on the weekends. (Photo provided by UPS)

SANDYVILLE — For many years, Johnny Staats has worked for UPS during the weekdays and played the mandolin at shows on the weekends.

Staats of Jackson County intends to keep this same schedule — at least until he retires in a few years.

Staats, a well-known musician across the country, started working for United Parcel Service, or UPS, on June 15, 1988 as a package sorter at the company’s Customer Center on Gihon Road in Parkersburg. He graduated from Ripley High School in 1987.

Staats worked as a sorter for 10 years before becoming a UPS delivery driver when a route position became available.

Staats, 49, is a driver on the Ravenswood route, covering 170 miles a day delivering packages at 80 to 90 stops along the way. He used to deliver packages on the Grantsville route before getting the Ravenswood route.

Johnny Staats of Sandyville drives a UPS truck on weekdays and plays music on the weekends. (Photo provided by UPS)

“If I am not playing music, I am delivering packages,” Staats said. “Music is a big part of my life.”

Staats said he has enjoyed juggling both careers.

He enjoys talking to the UPS customers along his route. Some who know of his musical talents will ask him to “pick a tune or two.”

“UPS has taken me to a lot of front steps,” Staats said, noting he has met good people along the way in Wood, Wirt, Tyler, Calhoun and Jackson counties.

Staats has written tunes while driving between UPS deliveries. One that Staats mentioned is the song “Never Mind The Mule.”

Staats brings along his mandolin in the big brown UPS truck to play on his lunch break. He also plays the mandolin at home after work.

Staats formed the Johnny Staats Project, a band that now plays all genres of music for all occasions, and Johnny Staats and The Delivery Boys, a bluegrass group. He performs in 75-80 shows a year.

Staats said he loves all styles of music, including rock, country and bluegrass, but bluegrass is his favorite. He plays the mandolin, guitar and fiddle, but the mandolin is his favorite. “I love the tone of it,” Staats said about the mandolin, which he began playing at the age of 7.

Staats won the mandolin championships at the Vandalia Gathering in Charleston in 1996, 1997 and 1999. Early appearances on West Virginia’s “Mountain Stage” caught the attention of the music industry and led to a recording career, he said.

In 2000, Staats signed a record deal with Giant Records in Nashville. He received acclaim for his first CD, “Wires and Wood.”

He played at the Grand Ole Opry, picked with one of his heroes Ricky Skaggs, played music with John Colla of the rock band Huey Lewis and the News and recorded songs with Kathy Mattea, Sara Evans, Pam Tillis and other bluegrass and country stars.

National media wrote about Staats and he appeared on “The Today Show,” “Larry King Live,” the CBS Evening News and CMT (Country Music Television).

He worked for Giant Records for about a year and toured across the country and to France and Taiwan.

“I did fun things and walked on a lot of stages,” Staats said. He mentioned opening for Alabama in Lewisburg, W.Va.

Staats eventually decided the life of a road musician was not for him. He chose to remain in Jackson County, work at UPS and raise a family. He and his wife, Lori, have two daughters, Hannah and Jessica.

“UPS is a great job with benefits and retirement,” he said. “There is a lot of security with this.”

With the music business, he said, there is steak one day and beans the next.

Staats said he has no regrets about rejecting the national limelight for the life of a UPS driver during the day, being home at night and playing music on weekends.

He wanted to keep the music fun, and not a seven-day-a-week job on the road.

“Do what makes you happy. It is not all about the dollar,” Staats said.

And Staats has the memories of playing music with Huey Lewis and the News in Charleston, his favorite rock band, and of John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival ordering his CDs.

His dreams came true. He considers himself to be blessed.

After he retires, Staats said, he plans to play more music on tours farther from his home base.

But he won’t be moving from West Virginia.

“It’s home to me. I love the mountains and the people,” Staats said.

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