This obituary is a contribution from Myrna Riquier, founder of the Still Pickin’ trio, longtime volunteer at the Podunk Music Festival, and perhaps the oldest working bluegrass bassist in New England when she retired at 82 four years ago.
Connecticut and Florida bluegrass lovers are mourning the passing of long-time musician James Sharpley. Jim suffered a massive heart attack and passed away March 9 at his winter home in Sebring, FL. He was 73 years of age. A life-long musician, Jim worked many years with his country swing band, Jim Sharpley and the Sharp Shooters. They produced several recordings.
In 2010, Jim made the leap to bluegrass by teaching himself Scruggs style banjo. Although a bluegrass novice at the time, he was hired by the Connecticut-based Still Pickin‘ bluegrass trio who had just lost their lead guitar player, Fred Etheridge. Jim quickly began working many gigs with the trio. He was very astute and a quick learner. While becoming skilled on the 5-string he taught himself to play resophonic guitar as well. He later learned steel guitar and was adept on the harmonica.
Jim was an excellent vocalist and had also spent several years as a broadcaster on WNHC-TV, and several other radio stations in New England.
Jim and his wife, Sue, spent their winters in Florida, where he assembled a large group of musicians and produced an Opry-style show each season. The event ran two nights, and both nights would sell out each year.
Many bluegrass fans will miss Jim as the Stage Manager for the August Podunk Bluegrass Festival in Goshen, CT. He was inducted into the Connecticut Country Music Association Hall of Fame in 2007.
Condolences go out to his wife, Sue, and to all the musicians he worked with over his lifetime.
R.I.P., Jim Sharpley.