Herschel Sizemore’s 85th birthday party

Herschel Sizemore reacting to his 85th surprise birthday party, and kicking off the jam – photo by Garrett Carter

This past weekend, a group of family, friends, and admirers gathered up on Bent Mountain in southwestern Virginia to celebrate the 85th birthday of bluegrass mandolin legend, Herschel Sizemore. To make it even more fun, it was all a surprise, held at the home of his son, Lee, and Lee’s wife, Vickie, with friends coming from as far as Florida to celebrate this milestone – which also served as a 67th wedding anniversary celebration for Herschel and Joyce Sizemore.

Herschel has been a bluegrass professional since 1957 when he joined The Dixie Gentlemen in northern Alabama where he grew up. His distinctive and highly melodic mandolin style set him apart from Bill Monroe right away, and he went on to play with Jimmy Martin, The Shenandoah Cut-Ups, where he was a founding member, and The Bluegrass Cardinals. His four solo instrumental albums have had mandolinists studying every note since the first, Bounce Away, was released in 1979. His original mandolin tune, Rebecca – written in honor of his mom – is etched into the bluegrass cannon as firmly as any other instrumental in the genre.

Now retired, he and Joyce live in Roanoke, VA.

Herschel was genuinely surprised by the gathering on August 7, and said that he was deeply touched to see that friends traveled from Florida, Georgia, Ohio, North and South Carolina, and northern Virginia to help them celebrate.

Photos were provided by Garrett Carter Photography, Lee and Vickie’s son.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.