The bluegrass community in central Virginia is in mourning this week following the death of Mike Sharp, who played resophonic guitar with a number of prominent groups over the past 40 years. He was 63 years of age.
Mike had been diagnosed with esophageal cancer in April of 2020, and had undergone chemotherapy during the summer. The cancer moved into his trachea, and he passed away on January 21.
Heritage was the first touring group that saw Sharp on stage regularly on the national circuit, where he stayed for seven years in the 1980 and early ’90s. The band produced four albums and performed all over the US, led by Donald Warthan. Other members of Heritage included Kevin Phillips, Ronnie Barnes, Steve Stephenson, and several others during their tenure.
Phillips remembered his friend Mike to us as a fine man and a consummate musician.
“Mike was a great guy, and a great dobro player. He lived his life like he played his dobro, and he played his dobro clean and pure, with perfect tone and intonation. A subtle yet powerful musician; when he played a note it was never wrong. And he never sought the spotlight, wanting to make others around him sound like a star.”
A native of Hanover, VA, Mike lived in Hadensville in Goochland County where he worked for Canteen as a technician for 40 years. Starting with them as a teen, he learned every aspect of the vending machine business, performing whatever tasks were required over a four decade career.
After touring with Heritage, Mike played for a time with The Fox Family when they were based in New York during the ’90s. He also worked with Darren Beachley, Local Exchange, Church Yard Grass, and Slate River Unplugged.
Over the past twenty three years, he had been a member of Michelle Nixon & Drive, performing and recording with them across the southeastern US, and becoming close friends with Michelle and her husband, Nick.
Outside of his musical contributions, Mike is remembered as a friend to everyone he ever met, with a smile and a kind word for all. Wherever he played, he knew people, and they were always glad to see him.
Phillip summed up his dear friend this way.
“People just loved him, and I loved him like a brother. He was everybody’s friend.”
Mike’s widow, Sharon, is planning a Celebration of Life later this year when COVID-19 restrictions are eased.
R.I.P., Mike Sharp.