About Larry

Dizzy Gillespie

Dizzy Gillespie

A lifelong resident of the Pee Dee region of South Carolina, Larry considers himself lucky to be living in the “Golden Age of Guitars” and the Pee Dee, which has spawned so many musicians who have been influential in the creation of American music. Larry was born in Bennettsville, South Carolina and now lives across the Great Pee Dee River in Cheraw, South Carolina. Among the notable musicians from the area is Grammy award winning Taj Mahal, who has roots in Cheraw and Bennettsville. With his ballooned cheeks and bent trumpet, Dizzy Gillespie mentioned his hometown of Cheraw at every concert. James Tarlton learned to play the banjo on the farms around Cheraw before meeting Tom Darby and forming the country music duo Darby and Tarlton. The jazz and blues pianist Buddy Johnson and his sister Ella grew up in Darlington, South Carolina, just a few miles from Cheraw. And just across the North Carolina state line, John Coltraine (“Trane”) grew up in Hamlet, Woody Shaw just a few towns over in Laurinburg, and Blind Boy Fuller grew up in Wadesboro.

Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal

Like many others that grew up in the 1950s and 60s, Larry got his first guitar after seeing Elvis on television. And after his first time seeing the Beatles on television he knew he wanted to be in a band. During his early teen years when he was learning to play by practicing with friends and forming bands, the Coachman and Four Club opened in Bennettsville. The Coachman was bringing in regional and national acts that played a style of music that has become known as Beach Music. To Larry, this was a source of inspiration and motivation to keep playing the guitar. While Larry was attending college at Pembroke State College in North Carolina, Townes Van Zandt came for a week-long engagement at the campus coffee house. The college gave Van Zandt a room in the dormitory just down the hall from Larry. “That week was like guitar boot camp and I’ve never been far from an acoustic guitar since,” Larry says. Years later, Van Zandt came through Cheraw traveling with Steve Shelley, the drummer from Sonic Youth. “We got to spend an afternoon and evening together. Townes handed me his J200 Gibson and demanded that I play Deep River Blues. As I played, he slumped back in his chair, closed his eyes, and said ‘She likes you. She’s pissed off at me.’ I think that was his way of telling me that I passed the test.” About six months later, Van Zandt died.

Larry Spears

Larry Spears

Larry’s guitar has been his constant companion, second only to his wife and family. “Playing guitar, singing, and songwriting is an ongoing learning experience and I test myself by going out and gigging,” Larry says. Over the years he and friends have formed numerous groups, but he always returns to being able to stand alone and pick and sing. After a half century of playing, Larry has developed a style that incorporates jazz, blues, and bluegrass. Since retiring from the work week world, Larry teaches guitar lessons and sells instruments. He and his wife own and operate Spears Guest House, a bed and breakfast in Cheraw, and split their time between their home in Cheraw and Blowing Rock and Ocean Isle Beach in North Carolina.

 

 

 

 

Dizzy Gillespie image found here and Taj Mahal image found here and are licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

Comments are closed.