Muscle Shoals, Alabama

Jake Landers
Herschel Sizemore
Rual Yarbrough

The Alabama-based Dixie Gentlemen created some of the more original and creative Bluegrass music of the early and middle 60's. they built much of it around the compositions of guitarist/lead vocalist Jake Landers (b. Jacob Landers, August 14, 1938, Lawrence County, Alabama) along with their vocal trios and the solid instrumentation of Herschel Sizemore (b. Herschel Lee Sizemore, August 8, 1935, Sheffield, Alabama) on mandolin and Rual Yarbrough (b. January 13, 1930, Lawrence County, Alabama) on banjo. The band eventually dissolved when Sizemore and Yarbrough went to work as sidemen in better-known bands but the three remained close friends and periodically got together in the studio to re-create the sound of the Dixie Gentlemen on record. In addition, the three continued to produce Bluegrass music of quality in a variety of other roles. The Dixie Gentlemen's origins date back to 1956, when Herschel Sizemore and Rual Yarbrough met and worked in a Country band called the Alabamians. When a friend of Herschel's named Jake Landers got out of military service the following year, they formed their own group which they initially called the Country Gentlemen after learning that another newly formed band already had a claim to the name.

For the next decade, the band remained together and active, working shows primarily in Alabama and adjacent states. They did television programs in various locales, especially at WMSL Decatur, Alabama. In addition, fiddler Vassar Clements played with them for a time, as did a lesser-known fiddler, Al Lester. The group had several bass players over the years including Billy Sizemore, Wesley Stevens, and especially Jesse Handley.

The Dixie Gentlemen first recorded in 1959, on a small Blue Sky label of St. Cloud, Florida, their first effort being a pair of Gospel songs, Pray for Me and Three Steps. Nashville fiddler Tommy Jackson needed a good Bluegrass band to accompany him on a Dot album and the Gentlemen filled the bill. They also cut a pair of albums containing Bluegrass standards on the Time label as the Blue Ridge Mountain Boys. Their crowning achievement in the studio came later in 1963 with an album on United Artists, that contained a dozen new songs, mostly written by Jake Landers, but all firmly within the Bluegrass tradition. highlight titles included Dear One, Will You Wait and This Is the Girl I Love. The band cut their last album as a working group in November, 1966, with Vassar Clements on fiddle and Tut Taylor on Dobro. They also backed Rual Yarbrough on a banjo album at about the same time. Rual initially released both albums on his own Tune label.

The dissolution of the Dixie Gentlemen resulted form a need for their services as sidemen in bands led by top names in the field. Late in 1967, Sizemore went to work as a mandolin picker for Jimmy Martin, and then in march, 1969, he relocated in Virginia, where he played in various bands, most notably the Shenandoah Valley Cutups and the Bluegrass Cardinals. Yarbrough also worked briefly for Martin, and then from 1969 to 1971 with Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys. He then got back with Landers in a group called the Dixiemen, which subsequently recorded four albums together. Jake Landers continued writing songs and did some additional recording.

In December 1972, the Dixie Gentlemen, including Vassar Clements, got together and did a reunion album for Old Homestead and nearly two decades later did another one for Rutabaga. The three core members have all recorded albums under their own names as well.

Ivan M. Tribe
Definitive Country
The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Country Music and Its Performers

Source: Alabama Music Hall of Fame

The Dixie Gentlemen, who reached some level of prominence during the 1960s, were a bluegrass band whose musical style varied between traditional and progressive bluegrass.

The Dixie Gentlemen were formed as the Country Gentlemen in 1956 in Alabama by banjo player Rual Yarbrough, mandolin player Herschel Sizemore and guitarist Jake Landers. About that time, another group who went by the name of the Country Gentlemen already existed so Yarbrough's group changed their name to the Dixie Gentlemen. Soon, Jake Landers entered military service but was discharged the next year in 1957. During these early years, they toured the south eastern USA and also made personal appearances on both local radio and television stations. Their efforts bore fruit and they made their recording debut in 1959 for the tiny and obscure Blue Sky label. When the fiddler Tommy Jackson was going to record an album for Dot Records, the Dixie Gentlemen were offered to back him up. In the early 1960s, they recorded for the small Time label. Shortly they signed with United Artists Records. The Dixie Gentlemen disbanded in 1966 after having made their last album together with fiddler Vassar Clements and dobro player Tut Taylor. Later, Yarbrough and Sizemore formed the Dixiemen. The original Dixie Gentlemen were temporarily revived in 1972 and in the early 1990s.


The Country Style of the Dixie Gentlemen - 1963 (United Artists Records)

Blues & Bluegrass with Tut Taylor - 1967 (Tune Records)

Together Once More - 1973 (Old Homestead Records)


The Dixie Gentlemen were a bluegrass group from Alabama who were active during the early-'60s folk revival. Herschel Sizemore (mandolin) and Rual Yarbrough (banjo) first met in 1956 playing in a group called the Alabamians, and joined up with Sizemore's friend, Jake Landers (guitar, lead vocals), in 1957 after Landers was discharged from the service. They first called themselves the Country Gentlemen, but quickly changed it to Dixie when they discovered another group who already had that name. They toured in and near their home state for the next few years, making appearances on local radio and television. They cut their first record, "Pray for Me" b/w "Three Steps," in 1959 for the small Blue Sky label, and soon went on to back fiddler Tommy Jackson on an album for Dot. Under the alias the Blue Ridge Mountain Boys, the Gentlemen recorded two albums for another small label, Time, and wound up scoring a deal with United Artists. Their lone album to find wide release, The Country Style of the Dixie Gentlemen, appeared in 1963 and contained all-original material, mostly written by Landers. The group's last recording session during their initial lifespan took place in 1966, with backing by fiddler Vassar Clements (a sometime cohort) and dobro player Tut Taylor; Yarbrough later released it on his own label. After the group's breakup, Sizemore and Yarbrough both worked as sidemen with artists both prominent and local, and later reunited briefly as the Dixiemen. All three Gentlemen reunited with Clements in 1972 and recorded an album for Old Homestead; they would reconvene again toward the dawn of the '90s for another record on Rutabaga. ~ Steve Huey, Rovi




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