Richard Nichols is an active member in a very musical community around Sparta. “There are a lot of good musicians about my age who grew up playing and had families that played music,” Richard says. A bass and guitar player, he is a regular participant in the weekly Monday-night jam at Crouse Park in Sparta. He performs with various local groups, attends the local fiddlers’ conventions, and helps out with his community’s Junior Appalachian Musicians program.
Richard was born and raised in Alleghany County. “My dad played clawhammer banjo, and his brothers played fiddle and guitar,” he says. His uncle Paul, who played fiddle, was in demand to play for dances and radio performances with Ernest Joines and other local musicians. When Richard started picking a guitar at age twelve, his father and uncles were performing less often, but they still played at family gatherings and were Richard’s first musical companions.
When Richard’s own two sons and their cousins were in school, Richard and his sister gave them all instruments for Christmas one year. The youngsters eventually formed a band called the Alleghany Ramblers. “I carried them all around the country playing music,” Richard says, “and I would play rhythm guitar for them.” The group performed at fiddlers’ conventions, at Opryland, for Congress in Washington, DC, and a couple of times for the Governor in Raleigh.
Richard plays with other groups in the community, including Uncle Nave Blevins and the Cranberry Creek Boys. The group gives occasional performances, and they have made a few recordings. Richard also plays with Charlie Edwards, Dennis Joines, and others at the Crouse Park jam session. He has been a member of the Alleghany County Fiddlers Convention committee, and he participates with the Sparta Junior Appalachian Musicians Program, helping teach third- through eighth-grade students to play traditional mountain music.
Richard Nichols is available for performances with Uncle Nave Blevins and the Cranberry Creek Boys. He also fills in with other area groups on occasion.