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Larry Sparks

Larry Sparks has said that he's the youngest old-timer around, and the self-description is an apt one. Emerging from the Stanley Brothers' Clinch Mountain Boys band, Sparks carried on with the sounds created by bluegrass music's first generation. His style was no knockoff, however; it had a distinctively bluesy tinge anchored by Sparks' own guitar, a comparatively unusual lead instrument in bluegrass, where the triad of mandolin, banjo, and fiddle had defined the musical texture since the genre's early days.

Sparks grew up in Lebanon, OH, in the southwestern part of the state that has produced several other top bluegrass artists. His parents came from Appalachian Kentucky, and one of his grandfathers was a fiddle contest champion. Sparks heard Cincinnati country star Wayne Raney on the radio when he was young and learned to play the guitar. His skills put him in demand not only for bluegrass but also for country and rock bands while he was in high school, but after sitting in as lead guitarist with the Stanley Brothers as they toured Ohio in 1964, bluegrass took first place among his musical interests. Sparks played increasingly often with the Stanley Brothers and made his recording debut in 1965 on a small Dayton, OH label. He spent three years as lead vocalist with Ralph Stanley & the Clinch Mountain Boys after Carter Stanley's death at age 41 in December 1966.

Around 1970, Sparks formed his own band, the Lonesome Ramblers, and it's a rare bluegrass festival or concert series that hasn't played host to Sparks multiple times in the years since. Numerous younger bluegrass players have passed through the Lonesome Ramblers or appeared on Sparks' many recordings, Ricky Skaggs and fiddler Stuart Duncan being only two of the best-known examples. Sparks recorded for various labels in the '70s and early '80s, moving to Rebel in 1982 for the Dark Hollow LP. It was the first in a long string of recordings that sold steadily and won critical acclaim; most of Sparks' Rebel catalog remained in print in the early 2000s.

Along the way, Sparks made several songs into bluegrass standards. He unearthed an obscure folk-rock composition by Lawrence Hammond entitled "John Deere Tractor" and turned it into a perennial anthem of discontented rural folk adrift in the big city; the cover of the song by the Judds on their Love Can Build a Bridge album of 1990 was likely traceable to Sparks' own numerous performances. The Stanley Brothers' "Goin' Up Home (To Live in Green Pastures)" was one of several gospel pieces that every parking-lot pickup band wanted to learn after hearing Sparks sing it, and Sparks tended to focus on gospel in his own numerous compositions as well.

Sparks and the Lonesome Ramblers barely slowed down in the 1990s, releasing several albums over the course of the decade, and 2003's The Coldest Part of Winter showed him in undiminished form. Sparks released Last Suit You Wear in 2007. Recorded primarily with his road band, the Lonesome Ramblers, Almost Home appeared in 2011. ~ James Manheim
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Lonesome & Then Some: A Classic 50th Celebration

1. Will You Be Satisfied That Way

2. Journey To The Light

3. Bitterweeds

4. Going Up Home To Live In Green Pastures

5. Loving You Too Well

6. Savior's Precious Blood

7. Letter From My Darling

8. We Prayed

9. Dim Lights, Thick Smoke

10. In Those Days

11. I'm Gonna Sing, Sing, Sing

12. In The Pines

x

Track List: Almost Home

1. Almost Home

2. Blue Mountain Melody

3. Lines On The Highway

4. Momma's Apron Strings

5. Gunfighter's Revenge

6. Back Road

7. There's More That Holds The Picture

8. Picture Me There

9. Send Me The Pillow You Dream On

10. Bring 'em On Back

11. Momma

12. Sombody Touched Me

x

Track List: I Just Want To Thank You Lord

1. What Kind Of Man

2. Bible Ben

3. Little White Frame Church

4. I Just Want To Thank You Lord

5. What A Wonderful Savior Is He

6. I Will Not Be Denied

7. His Name Was Judas

8. Going Home

9. I Want To Be Like Jesus

10. Better Further On

11. Soul Train

12. King For Me

x

Track List: The Best Of Larry Sparks

1. Tennessee 1949

2. Colleen Malone

3. John Deere Tractor

4. A Face In The Crowd

5. I'd Like To Be A Train

6. Smokey Mountain Memories

7. You Ain't Lived

8. Blue Ridge Cabin Home

9. You Could Have Called

10. I'm Bound To Ride

11. Don't Neglect The Rose

12. Imitation Of The Blues

13. Just Lovin' You

14. Blue Virginia Blues

x

Track List: Larry Sparks: 40

1. Georgia Peaches (feat. Andy Griggs)

2. City Folks Call Us Poor (feat. Sharon White-Skaggs and Cheryl White)

3. John Deere Tractor (feat. Alison Krauss and Dan Tyminski)

4. Blues Stay Away From Me (feat. Vince Gill)

5. 1-800-DO-U-CARE (feat. Rhonda Vincent)

6. Where The Sweet Water Flows (feat. The Isaacs)

7. Tennessee (feat. Kevin Denney, Carl Jackson and Larry Cordle)

8. I Need Jesus (feat. The Marshall Family)

9. Sharecropper's Son (feat. Ralph Stanley and Ricky Skaggs)

10. Love Please Stay (feat. Rebecca Lynn Howard)

11. Listening To The Wind (feat. Paul Williams)

12. I Want You To Meet My Friend (feat. Tom T. Hall)

13. Carter's Blues (Guitar Salute - feat. Vince Gill, Jim Hurst, Kenny Smith & Tim Stafford)

14. It's Too Late To Walk The Floor (feat. Don Rigsby and Chris Jones)

15. Brand New Broken Heart (feat. Russell Moore and Ronnie Bowman)

16. New Highway

x

Track List: The Coldest Part Of Winter

1. Leavin' Me

2. You Ain't Lived

3. This Old Road

4. Winter In Miami

5. Parkway Blues

6. Let's Turn Back The Clock

7. Kentucky Moon

8. He Walked All The Way Home

9. Our Old Home

10. Shenandoah Moon

11. Soldier's Joy

12. Lord, Show Me The Way

x

Track List: The Old Church Yard

1. The Old Church Yard

2. Ship From The King's Harbor Shore

3. He's Everything To Me

4. I've Just Seen The Rock Of Ages

5. Mother How I Miss You

6. Wandering Soul

7. The Testing Times

8. I Want To See Him Smile

9. Jesus Is All That I Need

10. Everything's Alright

11. Family Bible

12. I Shall Not Be Moved

x

Track List: Blue Mountain Memories

1. Digging In The Ground

2. Blue Mountain Memories

3. Last Day At Gettysburg

4. Jesus Is Waiting For Me

5. Ramblin' Pickin'

6. Getting Over You

7. Don't Know Why

8. Thinking Right

9. Gospel Train

10. Willie Roy The Cripple Boy

11. Danny Boy

12. Stone Wall

x

Track List: The Rock I Stand On

1. The Rock I Stand On

2. Tell 'Em About Jesus

3. Green Pastures In The Sky

4. An Empty Mansion

5. I'm On My Way To Canaan's Land

6. Thank You, Lord

7. Where Shall I Be

8. My Lord

9. Mama's Songs

10. The Old Rugged Cross

11. Jesus Is The Rock

12. Memories

x

Track List: Classic Bluegrass

1. Tennessee 1949

2. Kentucky Girl

3. John Deere Tractor

4. Love Of The Mountains

5. A Face In The Crowd

6. Just Lovin' You

7. Six More Miles

8. Cannonball Blues

9. Smoky Mountain Memories

10. Roving Gamblers

11. You Could Have Called

12. Don't Neglect The Rose

13. Great High Mountain

14. Blue Love

15. Too Late To Walk The Floor

16. Waltz Of The Wind

17. Girl At The Crossroads Bar

18. Blue Virginia Blue

x

Track List: John Deere Tractor

1. John Deere Tractor

2. Girl At The Crossroads Bar

3. Hot Sauce

4. I'd Rather Be Alone

5. Great High Mountain

6. Love Of The Mountains

7. Making Believe

8. Nobody's Business

9. When I Lay My Burdens Down

10. Carter's Blues

x

Track List: Sings Hank Williams

1. No One Will Ever Know

2. Dixie Cannonball

3. Someday You'll Call My Name

4. I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry

5. Battle Of Armegeddon

6. Waltz Of The Wind

7. Singing Waterfall

8. Mind Your Own Business

9. My Heart Would Know

10. I Saw The Light

11. Mansion On The Hill

12. Blue Love

x

Track List: The Last Suit You Wear

1. The Old Coal Mine

2. Casualty Of War

3. For Your Love

4. Lazarus And The Rich Man

5. I'm Country And Nothing More

6. Pretty Girls

7. The Last Suit You Wear

8. Goodbye Little Darlin'

9. Follow The Star

10. Larro

11. Hand In Hand

12. Those Blue Eyes Don't Sparkle Anymore

Comments

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I really love his songs!!!!!!! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !
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Very good.
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He has a style all his own. Watching/lis t e n i n g to him live, is a real treat! :)
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Feel as if I'm in the midst of my Kentucky ancestors, safe and warm.
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His gospel songs are such a Great Blessing ! Love them. God Bless You For your Great Talent Larry.
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I'm a Baptist Christian and I like these old hymns they tall you alot about GOD the father. Those of u that aren't saved by the blood of JESUS CHRIST our true and loving GOD.I will tell u this when u do trust him as your true SAVIOUR you will feel the weight lifted off your shoulders it is a big relief when you trust him.I think that would help a lot of dispersed people today. I would encourage you to go to the Independent Baptist Church in Shippensburg Pa . I would like that very much to see ma
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rickowood9
One of the best true bluegrass singers!
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Larry Sparks is a fav singer of mine
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Absolutely love his music. God be with him and his crew. Keep up the great works.:o))
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when I pass . I need Jesus will play for me .. I hope.. thanks Larry
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I remember watching Larry at the High School in Claiborne County Tennessee back in about 2007 :)
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My dad all over again... Teaching me how to play bluegrass gospel!!! My dad is Don Gross look him up!
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id just like to say i know larry personally and what impresses me most as his friend is his complete humility. ive never once heard him say anything to imply he is better than another artist. he has nothing but good to say about others. hes the most christ-like person ive ever known.
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Love it. Reminds me of Asheville , I'm coming home to visit in the spring... Miss ya
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larrys a fresh and good change my hat is off to you.
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Swing your partner round and round!
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yeeehaaaaaw
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i love bluegrass and he does it the right way like bill monroe and the stanley brothers bluegrass is true southern music i hope it last forever
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larry is another real good singer
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ggnbobbi
Larry is one of the few Traditional Bluegrass artists around today. I love his music.
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My favorite Sparks' tune is "These Ole Blues." I like Larry, but he definitely demands 'his own space' and makes this abundantly clear. I also love "Don't Neglect the Rose" because my friend Emma Smith wrote it.
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thekilpatric k s
Great
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A Great Man of GOD and my Personal Friend,Liste n to his Annointed singing!--Fr o m His Pastor Bishop Darrel Peters
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syrups9907
His guitar playing puts the blues in bluegrass.
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LARRY IS ONE OF THE BEST,I ALWAYS LISTEN TO HIM WHEN EVER I CAN
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alsites2001
Larry Sparks great intertaner mait him at Berryville fest in 70 s
,,Al Sites...
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LARRY SPARKS A GREAT BLUEGRASS SINGER AND BORN AGAIN CHRISTIAN NOTHING GREATER THAN THAT I CONSIDER HIM MY FRIEND , LOVA YA LARRY
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He really is one of the Best sounds overall in bluegrass i hear ! Never heard a song he does i dont like!
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I THINK larry Sparks is great.IWENT DOWN TO morehead ky. to see LARRY PUT ON A GREAT SHOW. HE WAS AT A LITTLE SMALL PLACE JUST WEST OF TOWN. I THINK IT WAS CALLED FARMERS,KY. MY LITTLE GRANDSON WAS WITH ME ALSO HIS MOM AND DAD. THEY LIVE IN TENN.THEY GOT A THRILL OUT OF IT. HAPPY BLUEGRASS RIDGERUNNER --SALYERSVIL L E , K Y
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The MAN!
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Great bluegrass... . . . . . . . . . . . .
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Classic Blue Grass Man, I love it. Blue Grass is real soul music.
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There is nobody like him. I love his music. I like him because you know who it is when starts sing or play his ol' martin guitar.
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I have met & played music with larry sparks .down at poppy mt, bluegrass show. morehead Ky. It was an honor.
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Even a fool sinner like me needs good soul and spirit like this. I'm just a kid but the past few years bluegrass and really old roots reggae fill in that blank i can't find in most music today. Past year i can't even turn on the radio, it just hurts my head. I guess if it doesn't have soul, i don't want to hear it? I feel alone a bit, but this helps. cheers and peace.
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I think Larry Sparks has his own unique style...no one can match him when it comes to bluegrass... . k e e p up the great work you are doing...
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larry is not one of the best he is the best
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very good artist
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a vile sinner lost in sin but i prayed to jesus and he came in thankyou jesus for the blood shed for us sinners my sins were red as blood but jesus blood made me white as snow thankyou jesus thankyou lary for the gospel songs amen i am not ashamed of the word prause jesus amen
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LOVE HIS STYLE, AND THE SOUND IS GREAT!!!!!!! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !
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I have seen larry sparks many times live . and he is one of bluegrass greats

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