15 September 1947, Lebanon, Ohio, USA. After learning to play guitar in his early teens, he first played with local bluegrass and country bands. He made his professional debut at 16, and in the mid-60s, he made some appearances with the Stanley Brothers. In February 1967, following Carter Stanleys death, he joined Ralph Stanleys Clinch Mountain Boys. His singing resembled that of Carter Stanley and he sang the popular Stanley Brothers duets with Ralph, while his talented guitar work saw him often playing lead during his time with the group. He recorded five albums with Stanley and worked with him until 1970, when he formed his own Lonesome Ramblers, which on occasions featured his sister, Bernice, playing rhythm guitar. Throughout the 70s and 80s, Sparks built a considerable reputation. Although, at times, he varied his music from old-time traditional to more contemporary bluegrass, he has never been afraid to use country material; in fact, one of his popular 70s albums was a collection of the songs of Hank Williams. He made his first recordings for Pine Tree but later recorded for several others, including his own Lesco label. He has written many songs, sometimes with Bernice, including Memories And Dreams, Goodbye Little Darling and Just Loving You. Wendy Miller (mandolin), Mike Kelly (banjo) and Art Wydner (bass) have played on many of his recordings and there have also been appearances by Ricky Skaggs. Known affectionately by followers of the bluegrass genre as The Most Soulful Voice In Bluegrass, he continued to play through the 90s and into the 00s and although resident in Richmond, Virginia, he appears at most major bluegrass festivals. He was awarded Male Vocalist Of The Year in 2004 by the International Bluegrass Music Association.
Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.