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Sparkman leaves Stanley's Clinch Mountain Boys

Thursday, December 9, 2010 – Banjo player, Steve Sparkman has left Ralph Stanley's Clinch Mountain Boys after more than 16 years to pursue a career in law enforcement in his home state of Kentucky.

Sparkman will be replaced by Jarrod Church, who has filled in for the band.

James Alan Shelton, a member of the Clinch Boys said in an email post, "I have been getting a lot of calls and emails about this so I just want to confirm that it is true. His last show was at the Grand Ole Opry broadcast from the Ryman Audutorium on November 19-20."

"Steve was an absolute master of the Stanley banjo style and a great friend. He knew every song, every solo, every back up lick, what album it came from and what key it was originally recorded in."

"I had the pleasure of standing beside Steve for 16 years and he was always a number one guy to work with. He always had his act together, and you knew he could do his job. All of us in the band would like to wish him nothing but the very best as he starts this new chapter of his life. And I know he will surely be missed. Steve has told me that he will not quit the banjo,he's just putting it aside for the time being while he gets his new career under way."

Church, from Birchleaf, Va. will be taking over the banjo chores. In 2006, he released a CD, which is a tribute to the banjo style of Stanley and has filled in on dates with the band for several years. Church also was the merchandise manager for the group, a position he has held for more than a year.

This weekend, Stanley will play Lewisburg, West Va. at Carnegie Hall on Friday and The Birchmere in Alexandria, Va. on Saturday.

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