Funeral services will be held on Sunday for Everett Lilly, one of the forefathers of bluegrass music, who died May 8 at his home in southern West Virginia. He was 87.
Lilly, a mandolin player and singer, and his late brother Bea, a guitarist, first began performing professionally during the late 1930s. They appeared regularly on Beckley, WV radio station WJLS during the 1940s and, subsequently, at an early incarnation of the WWVA Jamboree in Wheeling, WV. After Everett Lilly’s short stint as mandolinist for Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs during the early 1950s, the pair reunited and performed with banjo player Don Stover and fiddler Tex Logan. The group toured extensively throughout the south and also lived and played as the “Confederate Mountaineers” for nearly two decades in the Boston, Massachusetts area. Commenting on the popularity of the brothers’ rich, mountain-flavored bluegrass music in urban Boston and New England generally, the late Joe Val, one of a number of artists influenced by them, had commented: “These guys hit on like a bombshell. Nobody’d ever heard anything like that before.”
The Lilly Brothers toured Japan in the early 1970s, with three live albums stemming from one of a 1973 tour there. They also played the Newport Folk Festival and at New York’s Carnegie Hall among other notable festivals and venues. The brothers were the subject of a 1979 documentary entitled True Facts in a Country Song. The group was inducted into the Massachusetts Country Music Hall of Fame in 1986, the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA)’s Hall of Honor in 2002, and the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame in 2008.
Along with his sons Mark and Daniel, and several other musicians, Lilly had continued performing as Everett Lilly and The Lilly Mountaineers until his death. The Lilly Mountaineers received IBMA’s award for Recorded Event of the Year in 2008, while Lilly received the Vandalla Award, the highest honor bestowed on a West Virginia folk artist, in 2009.
In an email to friends and fans shortly after his father’s death, Lilly’s son Everett wrote: “May he join his brother, Bea, and Don Stover today and may they once again perform alongside the other great pioneers who made this the wonderful music that it is. He lived to do that.”
In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that donations be made to the Everett Lilly Memorial Fund at City National Bank in Beckley, WV.