Many fans who have read the early story of the Dixie Chicks will have come across the name of Sharon Gilchrist, who performed with Martie and Emily Erwin for about five years in the teenage band, Blue Night Express. Others will have come to know this talented musician's work more recently, through the exciting Santa Fe based trio, Mary and Mars, which released two CDs and performed extensively, both in the New Mexico area and on tour, between 2002 and 2004. This trio, which consisted of Sharon, Josh Martin and Ben Wright recently disbanded, but their recordings remain available, and are documented here. Details can also be found of some of Sharon's more recent work, for example with the Bill Hearne Trio, the Peter Rowan and Tony Rice Quartet, and the exciting Old Time band, Uncle Earl. This page can hopefully both provide Dixie Chicks fans with a few facts to continue the story, and give Bluegrass and Americana enthusiasts an insight into the work of this talented musician and some of the artists she has worked with.

Young Sharon

Sharon Gilchrist, in the teenage band, Blue Night Express, circa 1986

Sharon Today

Sharon today, playing bass as a member of the Old Time quintet "Uncle Earl"

Blue Night Express

Sharon dates the start of her performing career at the age of nine. The Texas based Blue Night Express were a quartet, consisting of Sharon, her brother Troy, and the Erwin sisters, Martie and Emily (now Martie Maguire and Emily Robison). Their music was very much in the Bluegrass tradition, the band's very name carrying connotations of the modern genre's founder, Bill Monroe.

In a recent interview with Tricia Seeberg of Crested Butte Weekly, Sharon gives some details of those early days, including having her first small mandolin (a gift from her father), almost as soon as she could walk. Later, she was to spend a week studying with the influential virtuoso, Tim O'Brien. (Note that, although this article refers to "Southport, Texas", this appears to be a misprint for Southlake, near Fort Worth.)

Sharon and Troy's parents were both active in guiding and promoting the group, which toured widely through the fairs and festivals of the Bluegrass circuit. On the biography page which she contributed to the former Mary and Mars website, Sharon told how their father drove them around in a converted bus "The Texas Tent", and how their mother made the outfits worn by the girls.

Sharon and Troy as children

Sharon and Troy Gilchrist in the band's early days
I am grateful to Nici Larson for finding this picture

All four young musicians gained a solid background in the genre, which has served them in good stead in their later musical careers. All four have, of course, continued to play, and all have retained a love of accoustic instruments and roots music, while also experimenting with other styles.

Robert Brooks' pages on the Dixie Chicks include a contribution by Jane Frost, describing an early appearence by the Gilchrists and the Erwins at the Walnut Valley Festival. As well as paying tribute to the youngsters' enthusiasm and the support of their parents, Jane says that, even then, "Sharon knew as many mandolin chops as about anyone attending the festival"

One highlight for the young band was appearing as the opening act for Ricky Skaggs at Pikeville, Kentucky, in 1984. Sharon also mentions appearences with Bill Monroe, Ralph Stanley, Del McCoury, and New Grass Revival. It is unclear how many details of their appearences will have survived, but one video is currently available on the internet, from TV music channel, VH1. It has Troy playing guitar and singing, Sharon playing mandolin, Martie bass, and Emily banjo. It can be streamed in Windows Media Player from VH1's "Driven" page

Although these are both comparatively recent pictures, they do carry an echo of those early days. I am grateful to Rob Davis, compiler of the Dixie Chicks FAQ, for providing links to these photos from his collection:
Sharon with her brother, Troy Gilchrist
Sharon with original Dixie Chick, Robin Macy

Sharon's Later Career

Sharon tells how she played with the newly formed Dixie Chicks for about a year, before leaving Texas for Tennessee. She attended Belmont University, taking a music degree, and majoring in mandolin practice. After graduating, her musical experience continued to broaden, moving away from Bluegrass to more experimental fields. Sharon played upright bass as well, and this instrument was probably the one for which she was better known during her years in Nashville. She had also developed a strong interest in composition.

These web links to some of the artists she worked with give some indication of her activities during those years:
Sharon contributed upright bass and backing vocals to some tracks on recordings by Josh Rouse
(On-line material from this period is not easy to find, but this page has a photo of Sharon playing bass at a concert in Germany in 2000)

She also worked with Rebecca Stout, as bass player and co-musical arranger.
And with Knoxville singer, Jennifer Nicely. (I haven't found a relevant website, but there's a photo of Jennifer and Sharon among the collection on this page, clickable for a larger version).

On this page, artist Paul McLean describes a collaborative multimedia arts project called DddD, in which Sharon participated as composer and musical director.

After her years in Nashville, Sharon decided on a new life under the open skies of New Mexico, and it was there that she again took up the mandolin as her main instrument, and began playing regularly at the Cowgirl Hall of Fame.


It was at the Hall of Fame that Sharon teamed up with the other two talented musicians - JOSH MARTIN and BEN WRIGHT - who together formed the dynamic and much loved group, Mary and Mars, who toured widely in the Western United States, and issued two commercially available recordings. Since the disbanding of the Group, their own website has lapsed, but I hope to continue featuring their story on this site. Details are now on a separate page

Sharon's Mandolins

Sharon's main instrument is reported to be a red mahogony vine board inlay F5, made in 1991 by (coincidentally) Steve Gilchrist, an Australian instrument maker, originally for the late Henry Garris, as a copy of a one of a kind red 1924 Loar original. (Information from a discussion at co-mando.com)

Playing the mandolin
Additionally, Sharon sometimes plays the deeper Octave Mandolin. This was made for her in 2003 by leading New Mexico instrument maker, Bill Bussman. The picture below is from Bill's interesting website.

Playing the octave mandolin

Mandolin Magazine are including a feature article on Sharon in their July, 2005 issue. Subscription details for the magazine are available here. The front cover is pictured below (photo credited to Sara Stathas).

Mandolin Magazine cover

Recent Work

These references record some of Sharon's more recent appearences. I shall hope to keep this section updated as information of new projects becomes available.

In July, 2004 she appeared at the Rockygrass Festival with Rebecca Hoggan

She also appeared at the High Sierra Festival, performing a late night "troubadour" session, and also making a guest appearence with Leftover Salmon. A picture is available on line of Sharon with Leftover Salmon's Vince Herman

In August, 2004, she took part in Zoukfest, appearing at the Taos Inn with Chipper Thompson

Sharon is also maintaining her connection with Santa Fe's Cowgirl Restaurant, playing there recently with Bill Hearne. The Bill Hearne Trio, consisting of himself, Susan Hyde Holmes on bass, and Sharon on mandolin, will play dates at the Taos Inn, the Old Blinking Light, and other venues.

The Bill Hearne Trio

Sharon, Bill Hearne and Susan Hyde Holmes
(Photo credited to Sara Stathas)

A review, and another picture of the Trio can be found on this page from the Black Rose Acoustic Society.

Sharon has also performed with Bill's nephew Michael Hearne and South by Southwest.

In September, 2004, Sharon performed at Enchanted Ridge, Cohasset, CA, mainly a solo mandolin and vocal set, but also working with percussionist Marty Ylitalo and the Hot Buttered Rum String Band on some numbers. She featured two of her own compositions, "Cold Dark Ground" and "Will You Fall In Love With Me"
I am grateful to Dave Fleishman for taking the trouble to contact me and provide links to some excellent informal pictures taken at this Cohasset Family Gathering
His own photos
More by the event's organizer
And by another friend (Registration is required to view photo albums at this site). Thanks to all involved!

Cellist Michael Kott, with whom Sharon has worked in Santa Fe has a webpage outlining his work

Sharon and her mandolin may also be contributing to future work from the established New Mexico group Blue Love Monkey

Ben Wright (from Mary and Mars) will temporarily rejoin Sharon for some appearences in New Mexico.

NEW! SHARON ON DVD A DVD ("Hitting the High Notes") has been produced documenting the 2004 High Sierra Festival. Sharon appears with Vince Herman and Friends. Many artists are included, and a full listing can be found here. Links from that page give details of ordering the DVD, which is available from May.


Sharon, Bryn Bright, Peter Rowan, and Tony

Sharon, Bryn Bright, Peter Rowan, and Tony Rice, at this year's Suwannee Springfest
(Photo credited to John Rosenberg)

As a highlight of the New Year, Sharon was asked to play mandolin with renowned Bluegrass musicians Peter Rowan and Tony Rice, aboard the 2005 "Jam Cruise" of the Caribbean. Some pictures are in the 5th and 6th rows of this photo album

Since then, Sharon has been making regular appearences with the Rowan and Rice Quartet. Details of their forthcoming dates can be found on the Peter Rowan or Tony Rice websites.

A recent press release from the Quartet's promotion agency Keith Case Associates includes this comment on Sharon's membership of the group:
The new Rowan & Rice Quartet lineup is magical as, in addition to her inspired contributions on mandolin, Gilchrist’s harmony vocals have added a new dimension to the songs on [the Rowan-Rice compilation] You Were There For Me, which are now performed in three-part harmony for the first time."

In an article by Bruce Lish for the Marquee, Peter Rowan explains how Sharon joined the group.

Another exciting development is the Peter Rowan New Accoustic Trio, consisting of Peter, Sharon on mandolin and vocals, and Jeff Hogan on percussion. The Trio played a memorable set at Telluride, and will appear this year at the High Sierra Festival. See this page for a review of one of their appearences.

One interesting spinoff from her current tour with Peter Rowan was the opportunity to play bass with some of the great names of the classic era of Bluegrass, when they assembled on stage at Merlefest for a reunion of Bill Monroe's Bluegrass Boys. Pictures of this event are here.


"Uncle Earl" are an all-female Old Time string band which Sharon has now joined as regular bass player. Their website has news and some pictures of her with other members of the band.

birthday picture

Sharon on her birthday, around the time she joined "Uncle Earl"

A new song by Sharon, "Walker", written for her grandfather Mr. Ernest Walker, is included on Uncle Earl's new recording "Raise a Ruckus". Sharon plays the deeper octave mandolin, in a duet with K.C. Groves, playing guitar and providing harmony vocals. The lyrics are here

Sharon and K.C.Groves

Sharon and K.C.Groves, of "Uncle Earl", have also been performing as a duet in New Mexico. They will both be giving mandolin instruction at the Minnesota Bluegrass Association festival this Summer, where Uncle Earl are making an appearence

Band logo

Please visit my webpage on this exciting band for details of their history and current members.


Visit Sharon's "My Space" page

All material on this non-commercial website is purely for the purpose of information and fair use by fans. Any and all COPYRIGHTS in images, or other published material are reserved to their lawful owners. This site has no connection with the artists, or with any organization involved in their promotion. Readers are encouraged to visit the websites named in links for further information.

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Upload 21: 26/07/05

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