History of Bluegrass

History of Bluegrass

Introduce yourself:

My name is Charlie Sizemore.

How did you get your start?

I started playing fiddle when I was 6 years old. Later I started playing guitar. When I was in my early teens, I performed with a local Stanley-influenced band called Lum Patton and the Half Mountain Boys. After making a couple of recordings with them, I went to work with the Goins Brothers playing lead guitar. Just before my 17th birthday, Ralph Stanley offered me the job of lead singer when Keith Whitley left the band in November 1977. I worked for Ralph for nine years.

How long have you been performing for?

After leaving Ralph Stanley’s band in 1986 I performed with my own band for 12 years. Then I was off the road for eight years or so until I starting playing dates again a couple of years ago. So in total I suppose I’ve been performing professionally for 24 years or so.

What has been your best memory when it comes to music?

Curly Ray Cline and I lived in Kentucky about 40 miles from each other. We rode together to meet Ralph Stanley’s bus in Coeburn, Va. My best memories are our trips back and forth to the bus. Ray was the same off stage as he was on stage — always joking and finding something to laugh about. I could never be unhappy or depressed when I was around Ray. Even if I wanted to be. I smile every time I think about those trips and I think about them often.

Describe your sound:

That’s not for me to say — I tend to be compared to various artists who seem — to my ear anyway-have very little in common musically.

Biggest musical influences:

The Stanley Brothers.

Other influences:

My grandfathers. They were uneducated mountain men, but if they told you something you could bet your life on it. I’ve tried to live up to the standard they set and I hope I’ve at least come close. It took me a while to catch on, but as I get older I realize from their example that who you are is more important that what you do or what you may accomplish.

Favorite pieces? Why?

I have so many favorite songs I couldn’t begin to list them. And I can’t explain why I like or dislike a particular song. It’s an emotional thing for me and I can’t turn it into an analytical exercise.

Where is your favorite place to perform and why?

My favorite place to perform is wherever we’re playing good music and doing a good show. The venue doesn’t matter.

What do you enjoy most about performing live?

For me anyway, everything I do is built around the live performance. I’ve never particularly liked to record; rehearsals can be tedious and laborious as can writing songs. I’ve been accused of being a loner and an introvert. But for that brief time when we’re on stage I feel a connection to people that is otherwise difficult for me. There’s no excuse for a "bad" show, but invariably some are better than others. When everything is working on stage and you’re connecting with the audience, this is for me the summit. There’s nothing better.

Anyone you would really like to play with? Why?

From the time I was a child, I wanted to perform with Ralph Stanley. I am incredibly fortunate in that I was able to do this. I’ve never thought beyond it.

Best compliment about a performance?

"I like your songs." This means I did my job. I’ve always thought the songs are the most important aspect of a performance and I try to stay out of their way and make them the stars of the show.

Anything special about the upcoming show?

This is kind of a homecoming in a way. I used to play Lucketts almost every year. Because I’ve been off the road for quite a while, I hope to see some old friends I’ve not been in contact with in a long time.

Most recent song you've listened to?

Ken Irwin of Rounder Records, my record company, played a bunch of songs for me a couple of days ago. I spend a lot of time looking for material so most of the time I would answer the question similarly —- that is, I would have been listening to songs in hopes of finding one for the next record.

How can people hear your music?

XM and Sirius play our music quite a bit. Otherwise, go to charliesizemoreband.com or rounder.com.

Future Plans:

I’m not looking beyond the next record. So my future plans are to continue to tour and hope that I can find 12 or 14 songs I’m excited about recording and hope that the buyers of our music feel the same way when they hear them.