Akira Otsuka’s photos of The Country Gentlemen circa late 1970s

Charlie Waller recording with The Country Gentlemen at Track Recorders – photo © Akira Otsuka

Here is another gallery of photos Akira Otsuka took at Track Recorders in Silver Spring, MD during the late 1970s.

These are of the Country Gentlemen tracking for their two Sugar Hill records, Sit Down Young Stranger and River Bottom, released in 1980 and 1981. When they were in the studio, the Gents were under contract with Rebel Records, but the company was sold shortly thereafter to Dave Freeman, so the band went with the new label their Rebel contact Barry Poss had just launched, Sugar Hill Records.

Mark Freeman, current President of Rebel Records and Dave’s son, was surprised to learn about Rebel’s initial involvement, and shared these thoughts:

“Interesting. I didn’t know Dick and Ronnie Freeland recorded those two Sugar Hill Country Gents albums. I always assumed that they had agreed to record for Barry Poss/Sugar Hill before they went into the studio to cut those!

An interesting aside about this time period… The way my dad tells it, the Gents and the Seldom Scene could have both come back and recorded for Rebel, but since Barry was just getting Sugar Hill off the ground and was aiming to shape it into a more contemporary bluegrass/folk/singer-songwriter label – and the Gents and the Scene were definitely seen as more modern/progressive at that time – dad felt it made sense for both of them to go to Barry. Plus, dad really liked and respected Barry and felt that him having those two acts would immediately give Sugar Hill instant cred (Boone Creek joining the roster around this time certainly didn’t hurt either!!). Dad was content to stick with the more traditional artists like Ralph Stanley, Larry Sparks, Dave Evans, etc.”

The band at this time was in transition between members with Charlie Waller on guitar and lead vocal and Bill Yates on bass. Sit Down Young Stranger had Doyle Lawson on mandolin and James Bailey on banjo, who were later replaced by Rick Allred on mandolin, and Kent Dowell on banjo for River Bottom. Also contributing to the sessions were Spider Gilliam on bass, Mike Auldridge on reso-guitar, James Bailey on banjo, and Ronnie Bucke on drums (Ronnie Freeland).

Many thanks to Akira for capturing these images for posterity, and for sharing them with our readers. You can see more of his photos and learn about his eventful life and career in bluegrass by visiting his web site.