Larry Sparks Trivia: September 9, 2022

This Contest is Closed
Oh no! No winners this week.

Let’s do a trivia question about bluegrass singer, guitarist and band leader Larry Sparks. Sometimes known as “Count Sparkula” because of his Dracula-like hairdo, and sometimes “Sparkomatic” for his powerful singing and guitar stylings.

Sparky has been named IBMA Male Vocalist of the Year twice. He also has won IBMA’s Album of the Year and Recorded Event of the Year awards. Next year – 2023 – will mark his SIXTIETH year in bluegrass music. He started in small local southern Ohio bluegrass bands while in 1963.

I reviewed Larry’s latest CD of gospel music for IBMA earlier this year.


What marked Larry’s entrée into the top level of bluegrass music?

  1. Releasing a self-produced LP of Hank Williams songs done bluegrass style in 1977.
  2. The first in bluegrass to have his hair style match his guitar’s pickguard shape/color.
  3. The first bluegrass band to include the word “Lonesome” in the band name – The Lonesome Ramblers.
  4. He became Ralph Stanley’s first lead singer after brother Carter Stanley died in 1966 – joining Ralph’s Clinch Mt. Boys 1967 to 1969.
  5. Larry was the first widely known bluegrass “impersonator” of other famous singers and guitar players, much like Del Reeves did in country music.

ANSWER is “#4”

Additional Bowden Comments
What, no winners? I thought this one might be too easy!

Larry, now one of the senior figures of bluegrass, who will mark SIXTY YEARS of performing bluegrass music next year, came to critical notice and acclaim when Ralph Stanley selected him to replace Carter Stanley who had died in Dec. 1966. Larry sang played rhythm guitar AND picked flat top lead guitar, all with aplomb. He stayed with Ralph til the end of 1969 and cut several fine LPs as a Clinch Mt. Boy.

#1 is a true event that received critical acclaim. Larry was the first bluegrasser as far as I know to cut an LP dedicated to Hank Williams’ songs.

#2 is also real, but it’s not the source of Larry’s acceptance in bluegrass. He’s played that same guitar, and had that same “widow’s peak” hairstyle since the late 1960s. My mother pointed this out back in the 1970s, and she has achieved some notoriety for it (Chris Jones once mentioned it on the air on Sirius/XM Bluegrass Junction).

#3 is patently NOT TRUE. “Lonesome” is popular word in bluegrass band names, bluegrass song titles, etc. The first bluegrass band playing in the 1940s in Bill Monroe’s style was The Lonesome Pine Fiddlers, from W. Virginia (although to be sure they used a tenor banjo not a 5 string, until the mid 1940s). When Larry introduces his band on stage he always says he’s “keepin’ ’em lonesome”.

#5 is patently false. Larry has never done impersonations. But would that make a good bluegrass act? I wonder!

Dick Bowden

Dick Bowden recently retired after a 45 year career in the paper industry, and moved from Connecticut to Big Indian NY (Ulster County) where he ekes out a precarious existence as a groundskeeper. Dick has been performing bluegrass music on banjo and guitar since 1966 in his home state of Maine, throughout New England, and internationally with The Case Brothers - Martin & Gibson. He has performed for HVBA with the Old Time Bluegrass Singers, and also sent in a squadron of Dick Bowden's Flying Circus. Most recently Dick has played Dobro (tm) with the Tennessee Mafia Jug Band. Dick has written many articles for Bluegrass Unlimited, Bluegrass Today, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass magazine) and HVBA.

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