Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

January 16, 2014

Sparks of creativity

Bluegrass entertainer to mark 50 years in the business with CD release

Lee Ward
The Independent

ASHLAND — Not many can boast having a career that spans 50 years.

Award-winning bluegrass artist Larry Sparks can.

The Ohio native, who has a show scheduled at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 31 at Carter Christian Academy School at the I-PAC in Hitchins, will mark his golden anniversary in the music business with a CD due out at the end of March.

Sparks said the CD, which will be released through Rebel Records, will include performances by such bluegrass figures as Ralph Stanley, Bobby Osborne, Jesse McReynolds, Alison Krause, Judy Marshall of The Marshall Family and 94-year-old Curly Seckler.

“About half of the CD is new music,” he said. “We went back and got some songs that some of these people were more familiar with and had heard and done.” He said recording was just finishing up and the official title of the release hasn’t been determined.

He said plans for other 50-year celebrations are still in the works.

Sparks began his career in the mid-1960s as guitarist with The Stanley Brothers and later became lead vocalist for Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys. He formed his own band — Lonesome Ramblers — in 1969 and has recorded and toured with his band for more than 40 years and has releases 60-plus albums with such hits as “John Deere Tractor,” “A Face in the Crowd,” “Tennessee 1949,” “Blue Virginia Blues,” “I Just Want to Thank You Lord,” “Love of the Mountains,” “Goodbye Little Darlin,’” “You Could Have Called,” “Tribute to Hank Williams” and “Green Pastures in the Sky.”

He has performed at the Grand Ole Opry and for “Austin City Limits” television show on PBS and has been awarded the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Male Vocalist of the Year, Album of the Year and Recorded Event of the Year and he was inducted into the Bill Monroe Bluegrass Hall of Fame and The George D. Hays Hall of fame.

He said he has been grateful for having met so many good people in the music business.

“it’s been a long ride and it is a business that is hard,” he said. “Like anything else, when you’re self employed, you’re going to have the lows and the highs, but you have to learn to adjust to either way, if you’re going to stay in anything and make it workd and that’s what I’ve tried to do and it’s worked for me. You’re going to have setbacks and things aren’t going to be like you want them to be. Things change and you just have to hang in there and know how to handle it and take care of it and adjust to it.”

He admitted the music business is tough, but not impossible.

“You have to have it as a goal in your mind and heart to do it and be ready for a long ride and maybe a rough ride,” he said. “There’s a lot of competition but sometimes competition is good. It makes us work harder.

Larry Sparks will perform at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 31 at Carter Christian Academy School at the I-PAC in Hitchins. Admission is $20.

LEE WARD can be reached at lward@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2661.