Larry Sparks at 50

Larry Sparks at Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival (May 17, 2013) - photo by Frank BakerWe caught up recently with the legendary Larry Sparks to get an update on his next album, a celebration of his 50th year performing in bluegrass music. It is expected to be released on Rebel Records in the latter part of 2013.

Like 40, his previous milestone project a decade ago, this upcoming golden anniversary record has a number of guest artists assisting the seminal guitarist and award-winning vocalist.

Larry shared that when he started working on this 50 year CD, it occurred to him that as he approaches 70 years of age, there aren’t many of his generation left in the music.

“There are only three or four singers that have been in it longer than me. Not many left. There’s Bobby Osborne, Jesse McReynolds and Curly Seckler… three of the guys I like a lot.”

Another is Ralph Stanley, with whom Sparks worked in the late 1960s, stepping in after the death of Ralph’s brother and musical partner, Carter, in 1966. Ralph is one of the guests on the upcoming album, singing a duet with Larry.

One thing Sparks mentioned several times was his insistence that, 50 years in, it was important to keep finding great songs.

“Half or more will be new songs. I always want to keep fresh new material in my music.

We have six songs cut, all new so far. Judy Marshall and Alison Krauss help on one – each of us takes a part.

It’s going to be a good album. We cut it pretty much live as we went, no overdubs. We just got in a circle and played off each other. That’s the way to go… keep it natural.”

With tongue firmly in cheek, Larry shared one last reflection on the many changes he’s seen over 50 years in the business.

“We need bad sound systems for this music It sounds better over a bad system.”

But seriously….

Here are some photos of Larry this past weekend at the Gettysburg festival, courtesy of Frank Baker.


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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.