His fiddle took him around the world

Blaine Sprouse returns to speak at Hedgesville alumni banquet

Blaine Sprouse returns to speak at Hedgesville alumni banquet

May 26, 2006|by ROBERT SNYDER

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - More than 20 years have come and gone since Blaine Sprouse ran a bow across the strings of a fiddle in a dance hall in Berkeley County, W.Va.

Since that time, the Martinsburg native, who grew up in an apartment atop a general store in the tiny village north of Hedgesville called North Mountain, has played his fiddle on nearly every continent and performed with such bluegrass and country music luminaries as the Osborne Brothers, Randy Travis, Glen Campbell and Johnny Cash.

Sprouse, 49, who set out for Nashville, Tenn., in 1974 before completing high school to play with Jimmy Martin's Sunny Mountain Boys band, will return to the area Saturday as the featured speaker at the Hedgesville High School Alumni Association banquet.

Sprouse said seeing the world had been his youthful ambition and music was the way to allow it to happen.

"It was either the Marines or music. I wanted to get out of West Virginia and see the world," Sprouse said.


He began playing the guitar when he was 6. He practiced for each weekend when his father, a railroad worker, would return home to give him a new lesson.

"I could hardly wait for the weekends so he could show me something new," said Sprouse, who lived with his mother and grandmother in Martinsburg until he was 12. He spent long hours alone honing his skills, preferring music to schoolwork, he said.

It was the fiddle that captivated him after seeing Bill Monroe perform in concert, and he soon began to study it after being given a dilapidated fiddle that had been dug out of a trash can by a neighbor. It took Sprouse several weeks of playing guitar at weekend dances around town to save enough money to purchase a bow for the fiddle.

Though his father was his original inspiration and fiddle partner, A.W. Sprouse didn't approve of his son's decision to make a living as a musician. He wanted him to get a formal education, Sprouse said.

In 1981, he earned a General Equivalency Diploma and later enrolled in Aquinas Junior College in Nashville, eventually earning a bachelor of science degree from Vanderbilt University in 1990. Four years later, he graduated from Vanderbilt School of Law and now works as an assistant administrator for the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce on workers compensation issues.

A.W. Sprouse died in 1985 and Sprouse gave up performing full-time a few years later to continue with his studies.

"It was very important to him that I finish school because my father grew up in the Depression," Sprouse said. "He'd say, 'If you don't earn your living with your brain, you'll have to do it with your back.'"

Sprouse, who called his father his closest companion in his youth, said he expects his return to the region after so many years away will be an occasion for both joy and sadness.

Former Hedgesville Mayor William Moore called Sprouse an example for those who aspire to follow their ambitions.

"Blaine Sprouse is an example of a local person who had big dreams for his life," said Moore, who helped secure Sprouse's return to the area. "He was invited back to the high school alumni to tell his story so that others may have faith in their dreams and aspirations."

The alumni banquet starts at 6 p.m. in the auditorium at Hedgesville High School. Tickets may be purchased for $15 at Berkeley County Citizens National Bank locations and at the Hedgesville High School library.

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