Larry Cordle | Biography
Larry Cordle was born and raised on a small family farm in eastern Kentucky. While a young child, he was introduced to bluegrass, country, and gospel music, by his great grandfather Harry Bryant, an old-time claw hammer banjo stylist, fiddle player, and dancer. He recounts, “Mom said I could sing I’ll Fly Away, all the way through when I was two years old!” Cordle fondly remembers this early influence by pointing out, “We lived so far away from everything that we had to make our own entertainment. Papaw would get the fiddle out in the evenings sometimes and play and dance for us. Just as soon as I was old enough to try to learn to play, I did so and kind of seconded after him on the guitar. He ran an old country store, and I spent many happy hours in there with him playing, talking about, and listening to music. It was our escape into another world, something we grew up with and looked so forward to. I was always happiest when we were in a jam session”.
After graduating from high school, Cordle spent four years in the Navy. After being honorably discharged, he attended Morehead State University, receiving a bachelor’s degree in accounting. “I just didn’t see how I could ever make a living only making music,” he explains. “So, I worked for a CPA firm during the day and played in clubs at night.” All the while, Larry desperately wanted to devote his time to music. Still, his commitments would remain divided until writing a song. That changed everything for the aspiring young Singer-Songwriter.
Eastern Kentucky was home for Cordle and his childhood friend, neighbor, and musical prodigy Ricky Skaggs. Upon hearing Cordle’s new song, “Highway 40 Blues“, Ricky promised to record it one day. In the summer of 1983, it became the number one song in the nation, helping to launch Larry’s songwriting career and skyrocketed Skaggs’ already solid country music career.
In 1985, Cordle was out of the accounting business and back playing nightclubs. At Ricky’s urging, Cordle gave up the security of a full-time job to move to Nashville to become a staff songwriter for Ricky’s new company, Amanda-Lin Music. Ricky had wisely partnered with Lawrence Welk’s mega-successful publishing company, Welk Music. “Two hundred bucks a week,” Cord laughs, “that wouldn’t go far these days, but I made myself a promise that if I ever got a chance, one foot inside the door, that I was going to work my behind off, as hard as I could to stay inside of it. I met people there at Welk like Jim Rushing, Carl Jackson, Lionel Delmore, Johnny Russell, Dickey Lee, Bob McDill, countless others, and learned what it was going to take to be a ‘real’ songwriter from them.” They taught me the ropes. I had the talent God gave me, some incredible luck, and much love, help, and encouragement from my peers and family.
At last count, Cordle’s songs had appeared on projects that (to date) have sold a combined total of more than 55 million records. Artists such as Ricky Skaggs, Alison Krauss, Rhonda Vincent, Garth Brooks, George Strait, Trisha Yearwood, Reba McEntire, Diamond Rio, Alan Jackson, Trace Adkins, and many others have recorded Cordle’s songs.
Though songwriting took Larry to Nashville, his desire to perform never waned, Cordle had the perfect platform to share his music with fans everywhere with his band, Lonesome Standard Time. In 1993, they won the IBMA Song of the Year Award for Lonesome Standard Time written by Larry Cordle & Jim Rushing. In 2000, they took home the IBMA Song of the Year Award for one of Cordle’s most popular songs of his career, “Murder On Music Row,” written by Larry Cordle & Larry Shell. In the same year, he received yet another IBMA Song of the Year nomination, this time for “Black Diamond Strings,” another co-write with Cordle and Shell. Those two songs were part of two Grammy-nominated albums. In 1992, Larry Cordle, Glen Duncan, and Lonesome Standard Time received a 35th Annual GRAMMY Award Nomination for Best Bluegrass Album for Lonesome Standard Time. In 2000, Cordle and the band received a 43rd Annual GRAMMY Award Nomination for Best Bluegrass Album for Murder On Music Row.
Larry Cordle & Lonesome Standard Time landed numerous #1 slots on the Bluegrass and Americana charts and gained the respect of their peers. The band, comprised of seasoned, esteemed musicians, provided Larry with an outlet to feature his original material, trademark singing, and engaging personality that immediately connected with his fans.
Cordle is often featured as a lead and background vocalist on some of Nashville’s most awarded and popular music. In addition, he’s provided harmony vocals for artists such as Garth Brooks, Blake Shelton, Bradley Walker, Billy Yates, Rebecca Lynn Howard, and co-writing pal Jerry Salley.
Cordle is also featured on Livin, Lovin, Losin: A Tribute to the Louvin Brothers, which won a GRAMMY for Best Country Album in 2003 and received the IBMA Recorded Event of the Year Award in 2004. The album features Joe Nichols, Rhonda Vincent, Emmylou Harris, Rodney Crowell, James Taylor, Alison Krauss, Vince Gill, Terri Clark, Merle Haggard, Larry Cordle, Carl Jackson, Ronnie Dunn, Rebecca Lynn Howard, Glen Campbell, Leslie Satcher, Kathy Louvin, Pamela Brown Hayes, Linda Ronstadt, Patty Loveless, Jon Randall, Harley Allen, Dierks Bentley, Jerry Salley, Dolly Parton, Sonya Isaacs, Marty Stuart, Del McCoury, Pam Tillis, Johnny Cash & the Jordanaires on Universal South Records and produced by Carl Jackson.
Cordle is featured on two tracks of Moody Bluegrass, released in 2004, alongside Tim O’Brien, Alison Krauss, John Cowan, Harley Allen, et al., and again as lead vocalist on Moody Bluegrass II.
In 2006, Celebration of Life: Musicians Against Childhood Cancer won the IBMA Album of the Year Award. The album features: Larry Cordle, 3 Fox Drive, Lonesome River Band, The Seldom Scene, Rhonda Vincent & The Rage, Cherryholmes, J.D. Crowe & The New South, BlueRidge, IIIrd Tyme Out, The James King Band, Wayne Benson, Clay Hess, Greg Luck, Aubrey Haynie, Marty Raybon & Full Circle, Tony Rice, Ronnie Bowman & The Committee, The Larry Stephenson Band, Blue Highway, Gena Britt, Randy Kohrs & The Lites, Steve Thomas, Scott Vestal, David Parmley & Continental Divide, Karl Shiflett & the Big Country Show, Kenny & Amanda Smith, Wildfire, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, Lost & Found, The Grascals, Alecia Nugent, Carl Jackson, Jerry Salley, Don Rigsby & Midnight Call, Bradley Walker, Dan Tyminski, Bela Fleck, Barry Bales, Joe Mullins, Bryan Sutton, Jim VanCleve, Clay Jones & Keith Garrett; produced by Bob Kelly, Jack Campitelli & Darrel Adkins and released on Skaggs Family Records.
In 2011, Cordle released his Americana album, Pud Marcum’s Hangin.” In 2012, he co-produced the IBMA Recorded Event of the Year Award-winning album Life Goes On. The album includes the talents of Larry Cordle, Carl Jackson, Ronnie Bowman, Jerry Salley, Rickey Wasson, Randy Kohrs, D.A. Adkins, Garnet Bowman, Lynn Butler, Ashley Kohrs, Gary Payne, Dale Pyatt, Clay Hess, Alan Bibey, Jay Weaver, Ron Stewart & Jim VanCleve. Jerry Salley, Carl Jackson, Larry Cordle, Jim VanCleve, and Randy Kohrs produced the album released on Rural Rhythm Records.
In April 2015, Larry Cordle was inducted into the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame, celebrating his impressive career in music. The same year he received a Nomination for IBMA Recorded Event of the Year Award for the song, “Against the Grain,” by Larry Cordle & Lonesome Standard Time featuring Garth Brooks, produced by Cordle on Mighty Cord Records.
In 2016, Cord had to put a hold on his latest all gospel album while undergoing chemo for leukemia but was able to release Give Me Jesus in March 2017. This powerful album received a 2018 Grammy Nomination for Best Roots Gospel Album and a 2017 IBMA Gospel Recorded Event of the Year Nomination for the title track, a traditional tune arranged by Cord. He rounded up some of his closest friends to bring the album to life, including Carl Jackson, Jerry Salley, Val Storey, Don Rigsby, Bradley Walker, Lethal Jackson, Angie La Primm, and Gail Mayes on vocals. Cordle is now in remission.
In 2018, he released another album on his Mighty Cord Records label titled Tales From East Kentucky. Bluegrass Today said, “he demonstrates an ability to write material that’s personal in perspective, but universal in its truths. Indeed, those who can’t claim to be from The Bluegrass State will likely still be able to relate to these homespun homilies.”
Cordle released one of his best albums to date titled Where The Trees Know My Name in February 2021. The album has already garnered three #1 hit singles (“Sailor’s Regret,” “Cherokee Fiddle,” “Breakin’ on the Jimmy Ridge”) along with more chart singles “The Devil and Shade Wallen” and “Natural State” all appearing on the Bluegrass Today Top 20 song chart.
Cordle remains highly active in all facets of his career. He regularly records and performs. He is also still first and foremost a songwriter, now writing independently for his own company, Wandachord Music, BMI. He is a long-time resident of the Nashville suburb, Hendersonville, Tennessee where he lives with his wife Wanda. However, he still enjoys the opportunity to make frequent trips back to his Kentucky home place. Those Eastern Kentucky roots certainly shine through on his award-winning original songs.