Larry Sparks hits a home run at Bluegrass Christmas in the Smokies

Larry Sparks & The Lonesome Ramblers at the 2021 Bluegrass Christmas in the Smokies – photo © Bill Warren

Playing to a sold-out crowd in the Sevierville Convention Center, Larry Sparks and his band, The Lonesome Ramblers, stepped up to the plate and pinch-hit for the recuperating Doyle Lawson at Bluegrass Christmas in the Smokies Festival.

Lorraine Jordan, host and festival promoter, expressed her gratitude to the legendary singer and guitarist. “This man had very short notice. His presence here increased this crowd.”

Lorraine’s 91-year-old, motorcycle-riding dad, Royce Jordan, readily agreed, “Larry Sparks is one of the most widely respected, well-known performers in the business.”

The 2004 and 2005 International Bluegrass Music Association Male Vocalist of the Year award-winner performed an impressive set of his greatest hits. He kicked off with Down in Union County and followed with Blue Virginia Blue. He also sang Face in the Crowd and picked an original instrumental, Back Roads.

“If I hit a bad note, I’m going to blame it on COVID,” the 74-year-old artist joked.

Performing for an hour and fifteen minutes, Sparks was immediately called back for an encore. He obliged with a memorable rendition of Back to 1949.

Jordan then joined him on the stage and petitioned for one more, “How about John Deere Tractor?

With a twinkle in his eye, Sparks replied, “It’ll be $20.”

Jordan dropped the money in the sound hole of his guitar and the audience enjoyed one more tune by Sparks.

Other bands that performed on Thursday included host band, Lorraine Jordan and Carolina Road, who performed a set of Gospel tunes. When band mate, Randy Graham, sang I Can Go To Him, he dedicated it to the late Jason Moore.

“He was the Muhammad Ali of bass players, Graham emotionally stated.

The remainder of the day included an entire Christmas show by Nashville-based Williamson Branch, the Dean Osborne Band, and Larry Efaw & the Bluegrass Mountaineers.

Christmas in Smokies continues through Saturday. Friday’s line-up consists of the Jesse Alexander Band, the Crowe Brothers, Danny Paisley, Junior Sisk, and Lorraine Jordan & Carolina Road. Saturday’s show includes the Wood Family Tradition, Caroline and Company, Deeper Shade of Blue, Larry Efaw, and Sideline.

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About the Author

Sandy Hatley

Sandy Chrisco Hatley is a free lance writer for several NC newspapers and Bluegrass Unlimited magazine. As a teenager, she picked banjo with an all girl band called the Happy Hollow String Band. Today, she plays dobro with her husband's band, the Hatley Family.