Steven Sharp wasn’t one to crave the spotlight, or at least, not that much, but he definitely made it his life’s work to see that others managed to get theirs.
Sharp passed away Jan. 18 at age 62 due to complications to his health. He died in the arms of his only child and daughter, Lindsay Sharp.
A casual musician, Sharp's real gift was working with people. In his role as a music promoter, he worked with country greats including Alan Jackson, Brooks & Dunn, Pam Tillis and Faith Hill.
Steven Sharp was born in the defunct Hamilton Air Force Base outside of Petaluma on July 14, 1955, along with his twin sister, Sharon. His family moved to Bakersfield in time for him to attend West High School. He joined the Coast Guard in his early twenties and married Nancy Candler in 1979. Their daughter, Lindsay, was born a year later.
“He loved being a father,” said Lindsay Sharp. “I was his only child, so I got all of his love and all of his attention and focus — even after my parents separated (around 1984). It's kind of interesting — now that he’s passed on, I actually feel that, in a way, we’ve been practicing this whole time. I’ve been primed for having an etheric father in some way — far away — and I feel like I can connect with him because (of it)."
Before Sharp found his true calling — music promotion — he held a number of different jobs including car salesman, in which he succeeded, and a professional extra for television shows filming in Los Angeles.
“He was a re-occurring extra in 'Matlock,'” Sharp said. “So he got to get his makeup done every day with one of his all-time heroes, Andy Griffith.”
Getting his fill of the small screen, he went into music in in the 1990s, landing a job as the Western promotions manager for Arista Records. There, he found himself promoting, building up and working with a number of big country artists. His job was to get their music on the air and he did it the old-fashioned way: face to face.
“What was interesting about his approach, coming from Bakersfield, selling cars, was he was very personable,” Sharp said. “… To get songs played, you had to physically bring people in and kind of schmooze with them. But he was doing it in a real Bakersfield really down-home kind of way that would make people really want to spin those records he would bring by."
Sometimes, even Lindsay was involved.
“In second grade,” Sharp said, “he picked me up in a limo with Brooks & Dunn! My dad would bring them by the house for some country cooking.”
Her father faced some health problems but even his second open heart surgery in 2002 didn't slow him down.
“He was just going and going and going when a lot of people would have stopped at that point,” Sharp said. “But he really loved music.”
A year later, Sharp moved to Nashville to start up his next project: Sharp Objects. A publishing/promotion house that fostered songwriters such as Monty Byrum by helping them produce demos of their songs, and then shop those to the labels with which Sharp was connected.
Around 2009, Sharp moved back to Bakersfield to help take care of his mother after his father's death. That, and his failing health, were the main impetus for his early retirement.
Reconnecting with his Bakersfield roots, Sharp looked to mentor artists pursuing a career in entertainment, partnering with singer/songwriter and businessman Rick Reno Stevens for a Master Songwriting Session clinic and concert in 2012.
Sharp’s compassion and mentorship including not only local performers but neighborhood children, who he helped sign up for school, offering them transportation and assisting with homework. He also taught them to sing Elvis songs with him.
“My dad affected these kids with all of his love,” Sharp said. “It was truly a legacy of love.”
“He didn’t raise me with any religion. I felt like he showed me love. He showed me the way to treat people and what it was to really give. And he’s the type of person that would give you the shirt off his back."
Lindsay moved in with her dad and grandmother a year ago. In December, Sharp had his fifth heart attack. It led to a sharp health decline that landed him in hospice.
Before his passing, Sharp wanted to sit down and share some time with his only daughter.
“The last thing he said to me was, ‘I just want to know that you’re proud of me.’ And I said, ‘Yes. I’m very proud of you, Dad.’ He said, 'Thank you,' and then he went to bed.”
Six hours later, he was gone.
“For 30 years (since his first heart attack)," Sharp said, "I’ve kind of made this point: It’s almost like trying to shoot a bullseye from 30 years away to be right there when he dies. Because that’s all I’ve wanted all my life: I didn’t want him to die away from me. I was always afraid he was going to die when I’d say goodbye. But he died, literally died, in my arms.”
Even though Lindsay hasn’t really performed music since the days of her performing at Java Jazz and Jerry’s Pizza in the 1990s, she’s been finding solace playing again; her father’s inspiration warming her.
“Singing was one of the things that he always (did). He just always sang around me when was a kid. So I’ve picked up my guitar more in the last two weeks than I have in the last four, five years. I’m just singing and singing and it feels so much better
“I felt like my grief was wiped away because i just felt him say, ‘You know me. You can feel me in music,’ and that's why I was picking up the guitar and feeling so much better.”
A memorial for Steven Sharp will be held from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Coconut Joe’s Banquet Hall, 4000 Easton Drive (call 431-6528 for details). According to his daughter, people from as far as Nashville will be coming to pay their respects. Friends of Steven Sharp and the family are welcome to attend and share stories of the big-hearted Elvis fan who made everyone around him family.
Third annual Bob Marley Birthday Celebration, featuring Amity Flow, Steady Vibe, 7th Standard and DJ Shag, 8:30 p.m. Friday, Elements Venue, 3401 Chester Ave. Suite H; Tickets $5 advance, $8 day-of; $20 VIP ticket, includes T-shirt, seating and surprise gift. Tickets available at Impact Street Wear, 714 Oak St. ($1 service fee); TRU STANDARD Barbershop, 5412 California Ave.; Highway 99 Collective, 19456 Colombo St. Suite H; or eventbrite.com. Call 859-7503 for VIP tickets.
Over the years, the music of Bob Marley has entered into this mythical, multi-generational appeal that very few artists have achieved. His music even transcends category. It is most definitely reggae, but could sound right at home and welcome on any radio station you can think of. In fact, I’m hard-pressed to think of a musical act that wouldn’t vibe with his.
On Friday, Elements Venue will be hosting its third annual tribute to the original natural mystic himself, Robert Nesta Marley. The three bands — Amity Flow, Steady Vibe and 7th Standard — are all disciples of the mellow, rolling reggae sound and will be representing both themselves and Marley in full force. DJ Shag will be spinning tunes in between sets.
I’d recommend splurging the extra money for the premium $20 ticket and get there early. This one is gonna be packed, and very, very irie.