Sparky & Rhonda Rucker at Mendelssohn March 2

Sparky & Rhonda Rucker will perform at 7:30 p.m., Friday, March 2, in the Reitsch Room inside Mendelssohn Performing Arts Center, 415 N. Church St., Rockford. (Photo provided)

Staff Report

Charlotte’s Web for the Performing Arts kicks off National Arts in Education Month: March for the Arts with Sparky & Rhonda Rucker as they lead us through the chapters of civil rights in song. Catch them at 7:30 p.m., Friday, March 2, in the Reitsch Room inside Mendelssohn Performing Arts Center, 415 N. Church St., Rockford.

Winners of the Howard “Louie Bluie” Armstrong Legacy Award, Sparky and Rhonda tour throughout the U.S. and overseas, singing songs and telling stories from the American folk tradition. Sparky is internationally recognized as a leading folklorist, musician, historian, storyteller and author. With his fingerstyle picking and bottleneck blues guitar, banjo and spoons, and Rhonda on harmonica, piano, banjo, bones and vocal harmonies, they deliver an uplifting show of toe-tapping music spiced with humor, history and tall tales. Expect a variety of old-time blues, Appalachian, spirituals, ballads, slave, work and railroad songs, Civil War and cowboy music, as well as original compositions.

For more than 40 years, Sparky and Rhonda have performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. and the Smithsonian Folklife Festival as well as NPR’s On Point, Prairie Home Companion, Mountain Stage and Morning Edition. Their recording, Treasures and Tears, was nominated for a W.C. Handy Award, and their music is also included on the Grammy-nominated anthology, Singing Through the Hard Times. The Ruckers have been featured tellers at the international Storytelling Center and Festival. Sparky tells stories by himself, but sometimes Rhonda joins in, and together they add life and humor to the characters in the Brer Rabbit tales, Jack tales, High John the Conqueror stories, preacher tales and family stories. Their educational programs span over three centuries of African-American history, including slavery, the Underground Railroad, the Civil War, the westward migration, the birth of blues music, and the civil rights movement.

Tickets are $15 in advance, $18 at the door. Advance tickets are available at: Rockford Area Arts Council, 713 E. State, (815) 963-6765; both Postal Shoppe locations: Edgebrook Center, (815) 397-7301 and 2205 S. Perryville, (815) 484-0940 and JustGoods, 201 Seventh St., (815) 965-8903; Nikki’s Café, 604 Pleasant St., Beloit, Wis., (608) 207-3101; or by mail: send a check and SASE to P.O. Box 765, Rockford, IL 61105-0765. Indicate artist or performance date on check. Credit card payment accepted only at via PayPal. A $1 ticket processing fee is included. Print your receipt. Info: Call (815) 964-2238 or visit

From the Feb. 29-March 6, 2012, issue

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!