Among formerly young people, one of the most fearsome health risks is stroke. The warning signs are often invisible, but the devastating effects can be dreadful, especially to a musician who makes their living and their life with their hands. Recovery time can be quite long, measured in years, and if the stroke is severe, you may end up alive but permanently unable to return to the life you had beforehand.
We’ve just learned that such is the fate of beloved Nashville musician Ernie Sykes who suffered a stroke on March 9. He is currently unable to perform, and facing a typically lengthy recovery.
Over the years, Ernie has played bass with some of the top acts in bluegrass, including Bill Monroe, Jimmy Martin, The Osborne Brothers, The Reno Brothers, and several others. He has been a loyal sideman in the Nashville scene and a first call studio musician. More recently, he had been living in New York caring for his elderly mother, but still touring with the The Tennessee Mafia Jug Band.
We don’t yet know a lot about his condition, and will update this post as we learn more. Sykes is currently in Nashville, but not only has emergency living expenses while unable to work, he has incurred additional costs for someone else to care for his mom in his absence.
A GoFundMe page has been establish to help raise money on his behalf. Ernie has many friends in the bluegrass world with whom he has shared a laugh and a song. This would be a fine time to pay a little of that back and make a donation.
GoFundMe can accept credit card or PayPal donations in a secure environment online.
Get well soon, Ernie!
UPDATE 11:15 – We spoke moments ago with Ernie’s girlfriend, Sherri Forrest, who was with him when the stroke occurred. She tells us that he is doing much better, but still has some difficulty walking and has no use of his right hand. The doctors have told them that they expect him to recover facility with his hand, but it could take a year or more.
There is only minor speech impairment, and Sherri says that he is singing some every day. She will be bringing him to the Jug Band’s show this weekend where he will at least sing a song with them on stage.
When this first happened in March, Sykes was hospitalized in the ICU for 7 days, and spent the next two weeks in rehab. He’s staying with friends now in Nashville, and doing his best to fight off the depression that is so common when one is sidelined by a stroke.
Mike Armistead has announced plans to host a benefit concert later this spring, but no details have yet been released.
Sherri says that it is quite fortunate that Ernie didn’t suffer more serious impairment, as his stroke was occurring throughout the day of March 9 while he was traveling from New York to Nashville by plane.