Old-time and bluegrass fiddler Pappy Sherrill died Nov. 30 at Providence Hospital in Columbia, S. C., at the age of 86. For most of his career, he performed with banjoist Dewitt “Snuffy” Jenkins, often billing themselves as the Hired Hands.
Homer Lee Sherrill was born March 23, 1915, at Sherrill’s Ford, N. C., near Hickory. He began fiddling when he was 7 years old and first performed on radio at 13. Before joining Bryan Parker’s Mountaineers — of which Jenkins was a member — in Columbia, S.C., in 1939, Sherrill performed and recorded with such groups as the East Hickory String Band, the Blue Sky Boys , Mack and Shorty and the Morris Brothers . (On radio, Bryan Parker’s Mountaineers went by the name “The WIS Hillbillies.”)
In 1940, the band recorded a series of songs for the Bluebird label but did not record again until 1946, when it allied itself briefly with DeLuxe Records. After bandleader and radio announcer Bryan Parker died in 1946, Jenkins and Sherrill assumed leadership of the group, which they renamed “The Hired Hands.”
The Hired Hands continued to perform in and around Columbia and began appearing on WIS-TV in the early ‘50s. The rise in popularity of folk music during the late ‘50s and early ‘60s — and the advent of bluegrass festivals soon afterward — focused national attention on Jenkins and Sherrill, particularly in their roles as instrumental pioneers. In 1962, the two recorded the album Carolina Bluegrass on the Folk-Lyric label. They followed with 33 Years of Pickin’ & Pluckin’ in 1971 and Crazy Water Barn Dance in 1976, both for Rounder Records. Their last album, Something Special, was released in 1989 by Old Homestead.
Jenkins died in 1990. Sherrill continued to fiddle until his own death. His signature song, one of his own compositions, was “The Cherry Blossom Waltz.” In honor of his contributions to music, the South Carolina Arts Commission gave him its first South Carolina Folk Heritage Award in 1998.
Sherrill is survived by his wife, Doris; sons Wayne and Gerald; and brothers Arthur and Leslie.