Born on July 4, 1957, in the hometown of the legendary Jimmie Rodgers, Mississippi Chris Sharp makes no bones about his roots heritage.
"I cut my teeth on Jimmie Rodgers records," says Sharp, who learned his first Jimmie Rodgers tunes at the hands of Mrs. Elsie McWilliams, the sister-in-law of Rodgers, a member of the songwriter's hall of fame, and the writer of such classic tunes as "Frankie and Johnny"
Also taking his first guitar lessons from Mrs. Virginia Shine, a first cousin of Rodgers and a talented songwriter in her own right, Chris got a double dose of old time country.
"Add the musical raisin' I got from Raymond E. Huffmaster, and you'll understand how I got my start," says Chris.
Other than Rodgers, Sharp cites his musical influences as follows: Bill Monroe, Bill Monroe, Bill Monroe, Flatt and Scruggs, The Louvin Brothers, The Delmore Brothers, Johnny and Jack, Lonnie Glosson and Wayne Rainey, Margie Sullivan, Bukka White, Skip James, Son House, Mississippi John Hurt, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Charley Patton, Ed Dye, Raymond Huffmaster, Avil Linton, Bob Fowler, Mike Compton, Butch Robins, Blaine Sprouse, Alan O'Bryant, Mark O'Connor, Lowell George, James Taylor, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, John Prine, Mac MacAnally, Stuart Duncan, Clarence White, Roland White, John Hedgecoth, Lynn Hedgecoth, Larry Perkins, Tony Williamson, Jerry Douglas, Russ Barenburg, Edgar Meyer, Leon Williams, Jetson Neal, Neil Yarbrough, Bruce Tinnin, Ian Anderson, Merle Haggard, David Crosby, Graham Nash, Stephen Stills, and Steve Howe.
An eclectic mix, for sure. Some have looked at this list and just scratched their head in wonder at how such a mixture came to be. Chris says that it's all just folks who either touched him with music on a personal level, or challenged him with the awesome nature of their music, mostly both!
Chris plays guitar, mandolin, banjo, mando-cello, bass, and occasionally hacks out a tune on a fiddle ("hack" is the word he used, and this writer believes it is the right one.) With Grants Ferry Band he primarily plays bass, but look for him to abandon the bass sometime in the second set . . . from there, it's anything goes.
A regular performer in the college town of Oxford, Mississippi (Ole Miss) along with his co-hort Ed Dye, Chris says that Oxford is just about the most fun place that he gets to play. The people of Oxford really like good music, and they like to come out and hear us. We are fortunate about that.
Asked about his nicknames of "Mississippi" Chris and "Big in Taylor," Sharp replied as follows:
I think my friends John Hedgecoth and Mike Compton dubbed me with the name "Mississippi" Chris to differentiate me from the other Chris Sharp that played with John Hartford. Mike Compton and I grew up playing Bluegrass music together, and Mike and Larry Christopher Sharp played together with John Hartford. We had heard each other's names until I think we had both grown tired of it. When I first heard the term "Mississippi" Chris, I knew I was in good company, and decided I liked it. Thanks, guys. I'm John Christopher Sharp, by the way, but Mississippi Chris will do just fine.
As for "BIG IN TAYLOR": We play so much at Lynn Hewlett's world famous Taylor Grocery in Taylor, Mississippi, just South of Oxford, that someone said that I was BIG there. I decided that I liked being BIG IN TAYLOR. It's just good to be BIG SOMEWHERE! A Big Fish in a Small Pond. Along with me, the likes of Buddy Guy, Taj Mahal, Dave Peterson and 1946, Marty Stuart, Larry Perkins, Larry Cordele, and a host of others . . . I'm just glad to be BIG IN TAYLOR!
Appearances on shows like the Turner South Network's "Three Day Weekend," "The Best of . . ." on the Food Channel, and live performances around the South have kept him busy.
The work of Mississippi Chris and the Jang-A-Lang String Band on the syndicated radio program, The Sucarnochee Revue, is catching on. Look for a new edition of the show which will feature their music for an entire one-hour show.
Chris is married to his wife of 25 years, Debbie. They have two children, Piper, age 24 a management assistant with Enterprise Car Rentals, who occasionally performs with her father, and Canaan, age 16, who likes basketball, girls, old pickup trucks, and his dad!
When he is not playing music or working in his home studio, Chris enjoys his other work, fishing, and tinkering with fiddles and banjos.
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Canaan Sharp and Debbie Sharp with a nice bass caught at home!