Internationally acclaimed JAMES "SPARKY" RUCKER is recognized as a
leading folklorist, historian, musician, storyteller, and author. He has
been singing songs and telling stories from the American tradition for
over forty years. Sparky accompanies himself on guitar, banjo, and
spoons, and has released over eleven recordings.
Whether he is garbed in the uniform of a Union soldier or in his more
familiar black boots, vest, neckerchief, and cowboy hat, Sparky Rucker
is sure to deliver an uplifting presentation of toe-tapping music spiced
with humor, history, and tall tales.
Sparky was previously a public school teacher, but his current brand of
teaching is different from the usual classroom style. He weaves music
into captivating stories that the history books don.t always tell. He
might explain that the slave owners banned the drum since the slaves
could use it to communicate. He might discuss the African origin of the
banjo, or he might explain that the Yellow Rose of Texas was really a
light-skinned female slave who learned of General Santa Anna's plans for
the Battle of San Jacinto and passed this information to Sam Houston.
Sparky began playing guitar at age eleven. He also played trumpet in the
Junior High marching band and sang in church, school, and community
choirs throughout his childhood. After graduating from University of
Tennessee, Sparky taught school in Chattanooga. He was active in the
civil rights movement, playing freedom songs at rallies, marches, and
sit-ins, alongside other folksingers such as Guy Carawan and Pete
Seeger. He also learned guitar techniques and songs from other such
mentors as Reverend Pearly Brown, Babe Stovall, John Jackson, Buddy
Moss, Johnny Shines, and Sister Bessie Jones.