Popular Virginia bluegrass personality and radio host Les Sears passed away on January 15 during the Yee Haw Music Festival in Okeechobee, FL. He was 70 years of age.
Les was beloved by the bluegrass community – artists, festival attendees, promoters, and his fellow broadcasters. In fact, he made a friend of everyone he met, and brightened up many a jam session or chance conversation with his personality and wit. He was a talented musician and singer, and a member of the Keepin’ Time Band in southwestern Virginia.
Even in his last moments on earth, Sears was doing what he loved best, performing on stage at Yee Haw. It was perhaps an unexpected shock for the the audience assembled that Tuesday night, but everyone who knew Les realized that he left us in high spirits. The end was quick and likely painless. His family has expressed gratitude to festival promoters Ernie and Debi Evans for their help with arrangements to get him back home.
We all know someone about whom an angry word was never spoken. That was Les Sears. He wasn’t a top-selling artist, but it is a fair guess that he had more friends in the bluegrass world than any superstar. He even took his name from the great Lester Flatt.
Les had played bluegrass all his life, coming up in a musical family, and developed a substantial collection of recorded music which he used for his program on the Bluegrass Jamboree network. Those who attended the Chantilly Farm Bluegrass Festival in Riner, VA always enjoyed his MC work, with its impressions and various voices. He was a regular attendee at the SPBGMA and IBMA conventions, where he was among the last to close up his case in the late night jams.
If there ever lived a bluegrass superfan, Les would have been in the running. It is hard to express how many people knew and loved him in the music.
Visitation will be held tonight, January 21, from 5:00-8:00 p.m. at the Broyles-Shrewsberry funeral home in Peterstown, WV, with funeral services on Tuesday at 11:00 a.m. He will be buried at Sunrise Memorial Gardens in Rich Creek, VA, next to his wife, Gladys.
R.I.P., Les Sears.