Larry Sparks life and biography

Larry Sparks picture, image, poster

Larry Sparks biography

Date of birth : 1947-09-15
Date of death : -
Birthplace : Lebanon, Ohio
Nationality : American
Category : Arts and Entertainment
Last modified : 2011-04-05
Credited as : Bluegrass musician, and guitarist, 40 Album

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Larry Sparks is a Bluegrass singer and guitarist. He was the winner of the 2004 and 2005 International Bluegrass Music Association Male Vocalist of the Year Award. 2005, won IBMA for Album of the Year and Recorded Event of the Year for his album "40," celebrating his 40th year in bluegrass music.

Sparks grew up in Lebanon, Ohio, 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, Ohio, label. He spent three years as lead vocalist with Ralph Stanley & the Clinch Mountain Boys after Carter Stanley's death at age 41 in 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, he 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. In 2004, he won the International Bluegrass Music Association's male vocalist trophy and earned a standing ovation from the audience. An album of duets with bluegrass and country singers, 40, followed on Rebel Records in 2005. He released The Last Suit You Wear in 2007 on McCoury Music.

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