Former Blue Grass Boy Larry Richardson passed away on Fathers Day, June 17, after a six-month long battle with colon cancer. He died peacefully in his sleep at his home in Lake Butler, Florida.
Born August 9, 1927, in the Galax area of Virginia, Richardson was a highly-rated old style mountain banjo player, someone who epitomised the early days of bluegrass music. He was from the old school of lead/tenor singers, crystal clear and high and real lonesome. Also, as can be heard on his work with the Lonesome Pine Fiddlers, he was a talented lead guitarist.
He penned Don’t Forget Me, the perennially popular Pain in My Heart, Will I Meet Mother in Heaven and Lonesome, Sad and Blue with Bobby Osborne, each of which was recorded in March 1950 while the duo were with the Lonesome Pine Fiddlers. These recordings are also found on an album in Rounder’s Early Days Of Bluegrass series, Vol. 3 – New Sounds Ramblin’ from Coast to Coast.
Richardson worked with Bill Monroe during the 1950-1951 period.
Larry Richardson can be heard in the form of several tracks on the 1957 Various Artists LP American Banjo Three-Finger and Scruggs Style (Folkways FA 2314, re-issued on CD as Smithsonian Folkways 40037), Dear Old Dixie, Little Maggie, Take Me Back To the Sweet Sunny South , Bucking Mule and Lonesome Road Blues.
Another Larry Richardson recording is found on a later Folkways album, Galax, Virginia; Old Fiddler’s Convention (Folkways FA 2435, 1964). Accompanied by Sonny Miller and Johnny Jackson, Richardson plays a fine rendition of Turkey In The Straw.
Also, in the mid 1960s County Records put out a full LP featuring Richardson with Red Barker & the Blue Ridge Boys. Blue Ridge Bluegrass (County 702) comprised a dozen excellent cuts that underlined Richardson’s high rating within the traditional bluegrass field. The lead cut was the superb Let Me Fall.
Other driving renditions of great quality bluegrass include:
- Pain in my Heart
- My Home’s Across the Blue Ridge Mountains
- Paul and Silas
- Sad And Lonesome Day
- I Don’t Love (‘a) Nobody
In the late 1960s Larry had a television show that aired in the Winston Salem area.
Other recordings include another version of Let Me Fall, along with Larry’s Ride, Nashville Jail, I’m Lonesome and Lonesome Road Blues, four of which were with Happy Smith. All of these tracks are featured on the County compilation album Springtime in the Mountains (County 749, 1975). Most of these recordings were from 1958.
Larry Richardson spent the last 30 years of his life traveling, singing and preaching. During this period he recorded a Gospel album, Ship Of Zion (Lifeline 4070) that was released in 1983.
Richardson was a significant figure in the early days of bluegrass, but perhaps he never received full credit during his lifetime. I hope that this brief tribute goes some way towards recognising his true worth as a member of the Lonesome Pine Fiddlers and the Blue Grass Boys and beyond.
Richard F Thompson