Living as I do in Roanoke, VA, I am able to enjoy its vibrant and varied acoustic music scene. Roanoke has a rich bluegrass history, having served as the home for both Flatt & Scruggs and Reno & Smiley on radio, but I rarely mistake it for the center of the bluegrass universe.
But that may change, at least on February 19 when top pickers from all across the eastern and central US will head to Roanoke for an all-star benefit show for Herschel Sizemore. The list of entertainers who have agreed to donate their time to assist Herschel and his wife Joyce with medical expenses associated with them both undergoing cancer treatment, was already impressive yesterday. Republik Steele, Johnny & Jeanette Williams, Acoustic Endeavors, Kevin Baucom & Bandwagon, The Seldom Scene, Junior Sisk & Rambler’s Choice, Grasstowne, The Travelers, The Stacy Grubb Band, The Bluegrass Brothers, and Springfield Exit with Sammy Shelor are all on board for an all-day show starting at 1:00 p.m.
Yesterday afternoon, it was confirmed that Del McCoury will also be on hand, and that he, Herschel, Dick Smith and Jerry McCoury will reunite for a special performance as Del McCoury & the Dixie Pals during the show.
Before Del was a big bluegrass star – and while his talented sons were still in short britches – McCoury kept a band together while working various day jobs in south-central Pennsylvania. Before there was a Del McCoury Band, there was The Dixie Pals, the name he used for his band roughly until he brought in the boys and made the move to Nashville.
In the late ’70s, Del had an especially potent group that featured the lineup noted above, with Sonny Miller on fiddle. Their live album, recorded in Japan in 1979, has long been heralded as a high mark for bluegrass of that era, and served to introduce a number of now-classic Del tunes to the bluegrass world. Bluest Man In Town, High On A Mountain, I’ve Endured and Roll On Buddy are all found on Strictly Bluegrass Live (Trio Records AW-2054).
Sizemore only stayed with the band from 1978 to ’79, but was also featured on McCoury’s 1981 Rebel release, Take Me To The Mountains. The two have remained close friends ever since, and Del was only too pleased to make the trip to Roanoke to help out his old Dixe Pal.
Tooting the horn for the old home town one more time… Take Me To The Mountains was recorded in Roanoke, at the old Crush studio downtown.
You can find all the details for the Sizemore benefit show online. Only 500 tickets will be available, so don’t delay if you want to make the trip for this one-of-a-kind concert.
If you can’t attend the show, but would like to make a contribution to the Sizemore medical fund, the online ticket service can accommodate donations as well. Checks can also be sent, made out to Sizemore Benefit, and mailed to:
3110 Williamson Road
Roanoke VA 24012
Arrangements have been made for a professional film crew to record the event, with hopes of a Sizemore documentary project to come as a result. It will be fun to at the center of the bluegrass universe, at least for the day.