Friday, January 13 * 7:00 – 9:00 PM
SATURDAY, January 14 * 1:30 – 4:30 PM
SESSION: The Underground Railroad: Connecting
stories of old to stories of today
James “Sparky” Rucker has been singing songs and telling stories from the American tradition for over fifty years. He performs with his wife, Rhonda Rucker, adding vocals, guitar, banjo, and spoons to their music. The duo’s recording Treasures & Tears was nominated for a W.C. Handy Award, and their music is also included on the Grammy-nominated anthology Singing Through the Hard Times.
It was during the civil rights movement that Sparky got his start in folk music, marching shoulder-to-shoulder with SNCC Freedom Singers Matthew and Marshall Jones and playing freedom songs at rallies alongside such luminaries as Guy Carawan and Pete Seeger. He brings an authenticity to the music that can only be obtained by first-hand experience.
Sparky has an impressive list of performance credits, including the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. and the Smithsonian Folklife Festival as well as NPR’s On Point, Prairie Home Companion, Mountain Stage, and Morning Edition.
For thirty years, Rhonda Lynn Rucker has been a professional musician, author, and storyteller. Performing as the duo Sparky & Rhonda Rucker, she and her husband have recorded ten albums together. Their CD Treasures & Tears was nominated for a W.C. Handy Award, and their music was included on the Grammy-nominated anthology Singing Through the Hard Times.
Rhonda’s Civil War-era novel Swing Low, Sweet Harriet was a Crystal Kite Award finalist. Her more recent books, Make a Change and Welcome to Bombingham, take place during the civil rights movement, one of her favorite time periods because of its powerful soundtrack of spirited songs.
A multi-instrumentalist, Rhonda plays blues-style harmonica, banjo, piano, guitar, and rhythmic bones. Her performing credits include the Kennedy Center, the Smithsonian Festival, NPR’s All Things Considered, the International Storytelling Center, and the National Folk Festivals of Australia and Scotland.