The Tharp Brothers Bluegrass Band Hanging It Up
In June of 1975, Tom and Ben Tharp walked on stage at Walker, West Virginia with their Bluegrass Band, called the Appalachian Grass and have been playing music together for the past 40 years.
Tom was the driving force behind the band, knowing some fellows with the right instruments and putting it all together, also booking shows and making sure of the traveling arrangements.
The first band consisted of Tom on Base and singing tenor; Ben on guitar and singing the lead; Les Snider playing the banjo; Jim Dunlap playing the mandolin; and Tom Burgess playing the fiddle.
So it all began and would later the members of the band changed to Ray Ferrebee playing banjo, and Ronnie Hoskinson playing the the mandolin. Even the name was changed to just simply the Tharp Brothers in 1980. But, in 1987 the name was changed to the Mountain State Bluegrass. More changes followed as Eugene Rishnell on the banjo and John Keith on the mandolin. Later the banjo duties went to Rick Tincher. From then till the present, Tincher, Keith, Ben and Tom have been playing together as the current Tharp Brothers Bluegrass Band.
“I truly believe that this is the finest band that we have ever put together,” said Ben Tharp.
Over the past 40 years the Tharp Brothers Bluegrass Band has had the opportunity to have some great musicians play shows with them, including players like Robbie Brake from Cleveland, who also recorded a record with them in 1980. Brake also recorded three other records with the great Jimmie Martin. Also, one of the best fiddle players they had the pleasure to play with was Tommie Cordell who owns the New River Band from Florida. Dick Kimmel from Minnesota, who used to write music for the Bluegrass Unlimited Magazine also played the mandolin for the Tharp Brothers.
Another mandolin player named Steve Abby from upper New England, who later formed a band with players from Joe Val’s Band, played several shows with the Tharp Brothers. And of course our present mandolin player, John Keith, played for the Goins Brothers for eight years. Less they can’t forget their present banjo picker Rick Tincher, with State Banjo Championship awards from Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and a Mid Atlantic Banjo Championship Award. The band has also played a few tunes with WV senator Robert Byrd.
The band recorded a record in 1980 for Programme Audio, in Greenfield, Indiana. The song, Love Of Mountains was played on WKKW from Clarksburg, and was Number 1 on the Bluegrass charts for 11 weeks. The record was played on 21 radio stations in 13 states up the East Coast. The band received several letters from the radio stations that played their record.
Over 40 years they have played shows in West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky and have met some pretty nice folks, but none finer than the fans they have right here in Wetzel county.
“The people around this area have really given us some great support over the years, and we really have appreciated every one of them,” added Tom Tharp.
But, like everything else, things must come to an end. And after giving it a lot of thought, Tom and Ben have decided that 2015 will be their final year to play music the band has played and loved for 40 years.
After the Willeyville Homecoming where they have played for over 20 years, the band will finish the year August 21-22 at the Veteran’s Bluegrass Festival at the Wetzel County Fairgrounds, and finish their 40 year run at Rivers Edge in Sardis, Sept.19.