Dixie Gentlemen

Alabama bluegrass legends who made some of the most distinctive downhome sounds in the 1960s.
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Artist Biography

An Alabama band that was founded in 1956 and tended to specialise in the bluegrass music of the 60s rather than the early style of the pioneers of the genre. The original three founding members were Jake Landers (b. Jacob Landers, 14 August 1938, Lawrence County, Alabama, USA; guitar/vocals), Herschel Sizemore (b. Herschel Lee Sizemore, 8 August 1935, Sheffield, Alabama, USA; mandolin/vocals) and Rual Yarbrough (b. 13 January 1930, Lawrence County, Alabama, USA; banjo/vocals). Originally Sizemore and Yarbrough were playing in a country group when they met Landers, who had just been released from military service. They formed a group calling themselves the Dixie Gentlemen. They readily found work and until the late 60s, they proved a competent and popular act at bluegrass venues and on various radio stations including WMSL Decatur.

During the years the trio was joined by various other musicians including fiddler Vassar Clements. In 1959, they made their first recordings (two gospel numbers) for a small Florida label and were offered the chance to provide bluegrass backing on an album with Tommy Jackson. They also recorded a selection of popular bluegrass tunes for two albums on Time Records billed as the Blue Ridge Mountain Boys. In 1963, they recorded an album for United Artists Records that was almost completely comprised of songs written by Landers. In 1966, they recorded their final album as the Dixie Gentlemen for an album on Yarbrough’s Tune label. They were joined on it by both Clements and dobroist Tut Taylor (b. Robert A. Taylor, 20 November 1923, near Milledgeville, Georgia, USA). (Yarbrough also recorded a banjo album on which he received backing from his colleagues.)

In 1967, the Dixie Gentlemen disbanded not because they were not popular but because the members had the opportunity to join better known acts. Sizemore played first with Jimmy Martin and then, in 1969, settled in Virginia, where he played with several major groups including the Shenandoah Cutups, and the Bluegrass Cardinals. Yarbrough also joined Martin but in 1969, he became a member of Bill Monroe’s band until 1971. He then reunited with Landers to form the Dixiemen with whom he recorded several albums. Landers made recordings with several units but for a time concentrated on his songwriting. In December 1972, the original Dixie Gentlemen plus Clements recorded a reunion album for Old Homestead and in 1992, they repeated the event to record on Rutabaga. Apart from their group recordings Landers, Sizemore and Yarbrough also recorded albums under their own name.