Saturday Larry Sigmon and Martha Spencer will bring their Unique Sound of the Mountains to the Historic Earle Theatre on Saturday, in a concert sponsored by the Surry Arts Council.
The “unique sound” they are known for results from just banjo, bass, and Sigmon’s singing, the council said in a statement announcing the concert. “Because of their strong rhythmic dance beat, Larry and Martha are favorites of dancers who often follow them from concert to concert.”
Larry Sigmon was born in Callaway, Virginia. His father, Lewis Eldridge Sigmon, was a locally beloved banjo and fiddle player. Larry Sigmon taught himself harmonica as a child, and then moved to guitar, learning to play by backing up his father. When he took up the banjo at age 15, it became his main instrument. He developed a signature hard-driving, rhythmic style. Larry’s first band, the Sugar Hill Ramblers, played together for six years. He went on to play with Carl Scott and Richard Bowman until the late 1980s, when he met bassist Barbara Poole at a local fiddlers’ convention.
Sigmon and Poole began playing together, winning numerous awards in banjo, bass, and folk song competitions. They played extensively at festivals, dances, and concert venues. Drawing upon a repertoire of old time and bluegrass songs from Charlie Poole to Jimmy Martin and Bill Monroe, they made the songs their own through Sigmon’s vocals and Poole’s double-slap bass. Throughout their eighteen-year career, the duo performed at the Carter Family Fold, the Grand Ole Opry, and mountain music festivals throughout the South. Poole died in 2008 after a long struggle with cancer and Larry stopped performing almost entirely.
Martha Spencer, an old time musician and advocate, interviewed Larry for her online documentary project, Mountain Music Magazine, in 2014. She grew up listening to Sigmon and Poole play festivals and dances throughout the mountains and they were one of her favorite bands. Daughter of acclaimed old time musicians Thornton and Emily Spencer, she grew up playing in their band, the Whitetop Mountain Band. When she interviewed Sigmon, Spencer encouraged him to play some tunes and joined him on bass, playing Specner’s signature double-slap style. The two took to each other immediately and the “unique sound” was reborn.
Since beginning performing together, they have stayed busy playing festivals and venues including Song of the Mountains, Houstonfest, CumberlandFest, Blue Ridge Folk Festival, and the Carter Family Fold. Their stop at the Earle is part of the Surry Arts Council’s Blue Ridge and Beyond Series. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $8 or 2017 Season Pass and can be purchased by calling the Surry Arts Council (336-786-7998) or online at www.surryarts.org.