Home in Tennessee
JAMES 'SPARKY' RUCKER 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 twelve recordings. SPARKY grew up in Knoxville, Tennessee and began playing guitar at age eleven. 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. During Sparky's career as a folksinger and social activist, he has been on the boards of Sing Out! Magazine, the John Henry Memorial Foundation, and the Southern Folk Cultural Revival Project (SFCRP). He also toured throughout the South with the SFCRP for several years with such luminaries as Johnny Shines, Olabelle Reed, Nimrod Workman, Hedy West, Mike Seeger, and Bessie Jones & the Georgia Sea Island Singers. Sparky's early blues mentors include Rev. Pearly Brown (who taught Duane Allman how to play bottleneck-style guitar), Buddy Moss (who taught Blind Boy Fuller), and Johnny Shines (who traveled with blues legend Robert Johnson). He also picked up pointers from Babe Stovall, Big Joe Williams, John Jackson, Robert Jr. Lockwood, and many others. The legendary 'Blues Queen' Victoria Spivey pushed his career in the 1970s when Sparky joined the Spivey recording family. Sparky's expert blues and bottleneck style of guitar playing makes him a popular teacher at folk music camps and schools such as Common Ground on the Hill in Maryland and the Augusta Heritage Center in West Virginia.