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Sherrill, Pappy

Sherrill at the 2001 Fall Folklife Festival, McKissick Museum
Sherrill at the 2001 Fall Folklife Festival, McKissick Museum


Homer Lee "Pappy" Sherrill played his first radio show in 1928. In the 1930s, long before multi-million dollar contracts and lucrative endorsement deals, Sherrill traveled the “Kerosene Circuit.”

During this time, much of the rural Southeast did not have electricity and the venues included barns, schools, or community centers lit by kerosene lanterns. These gigs were often dimly lit, cramped, and very hot. According to Sherrill, “In the winter it was so cold our fingers felt like they were about to freeze off.”

His first band, The East Hickory String Band, was a fixture on this circuit with people booking him up to six months in advance. They were soon performing on the Crazy Water Barn Dance on WBT Radio in Charlotte, North Carolina and changed their name to The Crazy Hickory Nuts.

Sherrill spent years traveling the south, playing with The Blue Sky Boys, The Crazy Blue Ridge Hillbillies, and The Smiling Rangers. He moved his family to Columbia, South Carolina in 1939 and joined up with Snuffy Jenkins to play with Byron Parker's (The Old Hired Hand) WIS Hillbillies.

Parker passed away at age 37 and Sherrill and Jenkins renamed to band The Hired Hands in honor of Parker. Sherrill and Jenkins had deep roots in the medicine show circuit and went on to play Carnegie Hall, the 1982 World's Fair, and the Smithsonian Folklife Festival - a far cry from the Kerosene Circuit of the 1930s.

Sherrill continued to play the South Carolina State Fair, large halls and festivals while performing community service at nursing homes, hospitals, and civic events around the Carolinas until he passed away in 2001. He received the Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award in 1988.

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bullet icon "Alabama Jubilee" (02:04)

Another song by Pappy and The Hired Hands at the "Heritage of Song" concert in 1992...

bullet icon "Old Time Medley" (03:18)

Pappy Sherrill and The Hired Hands (Randy Lucas - banjo, Harold Lucas - guitar, Frank Hartley - upright bass) performing in 1992 at the "Heritage of Song" concert hosted by McKissick Museum at the University of South Carolina. Co-produced by South Carolina Educational Television.

bullet icon "Old Rugged Cross" (03:22)

Vintage footage from "The Hired Hands Sunday Show," a 30-minute program aired on WIS-TV in Columbia, SC. Features Pappy Sherrill, Grady Lindler, and Ira Dimmery. 1961.