Herschel Sizemore, a true hero in the bluegrass mandolin world, is back home after a brief hospitalization last week. He had been in hospital to have a pacemaker installed to help regulate his heartbeat.
The Sizemore family says that he already feels much better following the procedure, and is back to his regular routine.
To mandolin historians, Sizemore is seen as one of the first musicians to break away from the Bill Monroe style of soloing primarily in closed positions in the early days of bluegrass. He and Bobby Osborne became prominent for their mandolin playing in roughly the same era of the late 1950s, both using open strings and first/second position on the instrument fretboard, in the manner of a fiddler.
Herschel is also credited with what pickers call the Sizemore roll, a technique he uses to note a pause in a vocal melody when played on the mandolin, much like the way a banjo would use a forward roll in such a spot. He employs a crosspicking pattern across several strings while holding a chord in place to keep the 8th note rhythm going on the mandolin, without emphasizing any melody notes.
He worked throughout the 1960s and ’70s with a number of popular bands, including The Dixie Gentlemen, with Rual Yarborough and Jake Landers, and The Shenandoah Cut Ups. He also spent a short time with Del McCoury and the Dixie Pals. His legacy includes a number of compositions for the mandolin that reside within the canon, perhaps none more than his instrumental, Rebecca, written for his mother.
He left full time music when his first child was born, and even turned down an offer to play with Flatt & Scruggs in the 1960s, remaining close with Lester Flatt until he passed.
Now retired, Herschel is also thought of as one of the most knowledgeable people in our business regarding the Loar F-5 mandolins. Having owned several in his life, he is particularly familiar with their design and construction, and is often sought out by mandolin builders for his expertise.
Sizemore is also a cancer survivor, and at 83 years old, is still ticking like a Timex – at least he is now with his pacemaker! His daughter, Charlotte Bishop, says, “Look out world, Bionic Daddy is ready for many more enjoyable days!!!”