Wayne Fields passes

Wayne FieldsWayne Fields, most recently the banjo player with The Charlie Sizemore Band, passed away from complications associated with cancer on March 21.

The deminutive Fields was born in Hazard, Kentucky, and moved to the Lexington area at a young age. He started playing a guitar in his church at the age of eleven and grew up listening to Flatt and Scruggs on the radio.

Wayne and his brothers, Larry and Bill, plus a couple of friends put a band together and began performing all over Lexington. Although they performed all types of music, Field’s heart was always with bluegrass and the banjo.

Mostly self-taught, Fields had three lessons from a fellow employee at the local Holiday Inn, J.D. Crowe, who was playing there at the time along with Larry Rice, Tony Rice, and Bobby Sloan.

In 1977, he got his first job playing banjo for The Boys from Indiana, replacing Noah Crase. While he was a member of the band, they made an appearance on the Grand Ole Opry and on The Porter Wagoner Show.

Four years later Fields took a job with Renfro Valley regular John Cosby and the Bluegrass Drifters, with whom he won the first SPBGMA band contest in 1984.

Later that year, Wayne, his brother Bill, Ricky Wasson and Rick Johnson formed the group Southern Blend with whom he recorded and toured for 9 years. He also played with another Renfro Valley band Wilderness Trail. Other members included Dave Osborne & Jeff Parker (who played with Lonesome River Band and is now with Dailey & Vincent).

Later Fields joined J.D. Crowe, playing mandolin and singing tenor vocals for The New South.

During the last 10 years he has performed with various groups including the family band Driftwood, Gary Strong & Hardtimes, Rick Bartley & Blackwater, as well as with The Charlie Sizemore Band.

Fields is featured playing banjo and singing harmony on the stellar Charlie Sizemore album Good News that was released last year.

Wayne Fields leaves Tina, his wife, two daughters, Christina and Tiffany, and two sons Scott and Charles, both active bluegrass musicians.

Friend and fellow banjo player Frank Godley affectionately remembers Wayne this way ……

I could write pages about the kind of person Wayne Fields was apart from being a superb musician and singer… he was a gentleman and a gentle man, kind, generous, humble, thoughtful, courteous… you can see where this would go… as has been pointed out already on BGRASS-L, he’s someone you would have been proud to have for a friend; he enriched the lives of all who knew him.

I’ve told the story on the BGRASS-L before, but back in March or April of 1996 (“income tax season”) I got a phone call from Wayne & Ira Whitaker. Wayne was helping out at a liquor store (off-license) owned by a family member (I forget who, exactly) and they wondered if I’d like to come out and pick a little as it was a Monday evening and not much business was going on. I was in the middle of working on income tax, so declined the invitation… and no sooner than I’d hung up the phone I thought, “What was I thinking!!??” Called ’em right back and asked, “How do I get there??”

That turned into a regular jam session every Monday night at the Parkway Liquor Store, lasting over 4 years, until the store closed for good, at which time we became a “floating” jam session for a while, continuing (unfortunately with declining participation) until just a few weeks ago. Wayne didn’t come often after the store closed as his day job (he was a golf course superintendent) required early hours, but he sure got us off to a good 4-year start.

Band leader and friend Charlie Sizemore pays tribute to Wayne Fields with a posting on his website.

“I first met Wayne over thirty years ago during his stint with The Boys From Indiana when I was a kid working with the Goins Brothers. I still remember being a bit taken aback by how respectful he was toward me – a skinny kid from Puncheon Creek still trying to learn to pick. He made me feel welcome and comfortable, and I was thrilled just to be able to hang out with him at festivals and shows.

As the years went by we became friends and I continued to be amazed and inspired by his talent, never dreaming that I’d be able to work with him.

I can say with complete honesty that working in a band with Wayne is the highlight of my career, and regardless of what happens from here I don’t think this will be surpassed.”

Credit for the picture and for grateful assistance with this tribute is owed to Frank Godbey.

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About the Author

Richard Thompson

Richard F. Thompson is a long-standing free-lance writer specialising in bluegrass music topics. A two-time Editor of British Bluegrass News, he has been seriously interested in bluegrass music since about 1970. As well as contributing to that magazine, he has, in the past 30 plus years, had articles published by Country Music World, International Country Music News, Country Music People, Bluegrass Unlimited, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass music journal) and Bluegrass Europe. He wrote the annotated series I'm On My Way Back To Old Kentucky, a daily memorial to Bill Monroe that culminated with an acknowledgement of what would have been his 100th birthday, on September 13, 2011.