Larry Sparks


Larry Sparks


Musical ability.
Musical instruments.
Guitar music (Bluegrass)
Bands (Music)
Music icons
Musical performance
Sound recordings.
Sound studios
Sound--Recording and reproducing
Musical groups.
Bluegrass music.
Bluegrass musicians


Larry Sparks talks about his childhood near Lebanon, Ohio, where his parents had migrated from Kentucky in search of jobs. He talks about musical talent in his family, especially his sister Bernice who taught him to play guitar. He talks about performing with his sister on radio programs recorded at their church. He talks about his early gigs, before he was old enough to drive, and the formation of Larry Sparks and the Sandy Mountain Boys.

Sparks talks about how he came to work for the Stanley Brothers, and the first show he played with them in New Miami, Ohio. He talks about accidentally speeding up the tempo on the song "Rank Stranger" during the show. He talks about the guitar he played in those days. Sparks tells the story of how he continued to play guitar in Ralph Stanley's band when Stanley decided to carry on after the death of his brother Carter. He talks about the guitar he played in those days, which he continues to play today. Sparks talks about the albums he recorded with Ralph Stanley, including where they were recorded, and some of the songs from each album. He talks about Stanley's style of recording: practicing once or twice and then recording, with everyone playing together like they would for a live performance due to the one-mic system. He talks about touring with Ralph Stanley and the other members of the band at the time.

Sparks talks about leaving Ralph Stanley to form his own band, Larry Sparks and the Lonesome Ramblers. He talks about how he came up with the name for the band, and the importance of the "lonesome sound" in Bluegrass music and especially in his band. He talks about some of the records the band recorded. Interviewer Glenn Duncan talks about some of Sparks' unique techniques for playing guitar, including his styles of detuning, muting, vibrato, stretching and bending strings, and flat picking. He talks about Sparks' ability to tune his guitar on the fly during shows. Sparks talks about moving to Richmond, Indiana and why he decided not to try to have a music career in Nashville, Tennessee. He talks about his commitment to the traditional Bluegrass music style, which would have been altered by the popularity of country music in Nashville. He talks about the audience for his music. Sparks talks about his Gospel records and the popularity of Gospel songs in Bluegrass. He talks about what religion means to him. Sparks talks about his preferred recording technique: recording as many of the instruments as possible at one time, then adding harmonies in later. He talks about some of the songs he has recorded that he knew would be instant classics, and talks about songwriter Ken Williams. He talks about the Larry Sparks Signature Guitar created by Blueridge Guitars. Sparks talks about the early Bluegrass festivals, how they have changed over the years, and his opinion on this change. Interviewer Glenn Duncan states his opinion that Larry Sparks is one of four "Giants of Bluegrass" in terms of band leaders, frontmen, lead singers, and lead guitarists along with Lester Flatt, Carter Stanley, and Jimmy Martin. Sparks talks about his career accomplishments and his influence on other musicians.






Glenn Duncan


Larry Sparks

Interview Keyword

Stanley, Carter (Artist)
Carter Stanley (Artist)
Stanley, Ralph (Artist)
Ralph Stanley (Artist)
The Stanley Brothers and the Clinch Mountain Boys (Artist)
Stanley Brothers and the Clinch Mountain Boys, the (Artist)
Bluegrass festivals




“Larry Sparks,” Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame and Museum, accessed January 27, 2020,