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The Lilly Brothers, Charles Everett and Bea, played old-time/bluegrass music together for over three decades. They may best be remembered in New England, where they were a fixture in the downtown Boston music scene from the early '60s through 1980.
Charles Everett and older sibling Mitchell Burt "Bea" Lilly were born three years apart in Clear Creek, West Virginia. Everett played the mandolin, banjo, and fiddle while Bea played guitar; both brothers sang; early influences included the Delmore Brothers, the Callahan Brothers, and the Monroes. The Lillys debuted in 1938 singing old-time country on a West Virginia radio station. They initially billed themselves as the Lonesome Holler Boys. Later they added a banjo and became a bluegrass group. In 1939, they began performing regularly at the newly established WJLS Beckley, where they performed together and with other musicians. After that they spent a few years at various Southern stations playing in such groups as the Smiling Mountain Boys and Red Belcher's Kentucky Ridgerunners.
They made their recording debut in 1948 while working with the latter group at WWVA. They remained at the station through 1950, whereupon they returned home after a heated fight with Belcher over money. From there the Lillys split up for a time; Charles became a mandolin player and tenor with Flatt & Scruggs' Foggy Mountain Boys, and remained with them through early 1952 when he left to join his brother, fiddler Tex Logan, and banjo picker Don Stover in Boston. They got their first job playing on WCOP's Hayloft Jamboree and from there hit the local club circuit.
The Lilly Brothers recorded fairly frequently during the '50s. Between 1958 and 1959, Charles spent another year with Flatt & Scruggs while Stover did a bit of touring with other bands. But for that, the Lilly Brothers remained intact through 1970. In addition to playing downtown Boston, they also played the local festival circuit and were instrumental in the development of urban bluegrass. In the early '70s, Charles' son was killed in a car crash, causing him and his wife Joann to leave Beantown and return to West Virginia. Bea Lilly came down a while later to help Everett host a local television show, but eventually returned to the city. After 1971, Charles infrequently joined the band to perform at festivals during the summers and occasionally recorded with them. The Lilly Brothers' career was later chronicled in a 1979 documentary, True Facts in a Country Song. Suffering from Alzheimers disease, Bea Lilly died on September 18, 2005 in Plymouth, Massachusetts at the age of 83; Everett Lilly died at his home in Clear Creek on May 8, 2012; he was 87 years old.
The Lilly Brothers, (Bea Lilly, born Michael Burt Lilly, December 15, 1921 – September 18, 2005 and brother Everett Lilly, born July 1, 1924 - May 8, 2012) were bluegrass musicians born in Clear Creek, West Virginia. They have been credited with bringing bluegrass to New England and with influencing such future bluegrass artists as Peter Rowan, Joe Val and Bill Keith, among others.Carr, Munde 1996, p. 108.
Influenced by the traditional music they heard in their youth, Bea began playing the guitar and Everett the mandolin. In 1938, they made their radio debut on the Old Farm Hour show at WCHS in Charleston, West Virginia. Other radio works followed at WJLS in Beckley, West Virginia and on several other Southern radio stations during the 1940s. In 1945, they appeared on the Molly O'Day radio show at WNOX in Knoxville, Tennessee. In 1948, the brothers signed with the WWVA Jamboree in Wheeling, West Virginia as members of "Red Belcher's Kentucky Ridge Runners", but they quit two years later because of a financial dispute and the brothers retired temporarily. In 1951, Everett joined Flatt & Scruggs as mandolin player. The next year, in 1952, 'Tex' Logan, whom they had met at the WWVA Jamboree, persuaded the brothers to reunite.
The Lilly Brothers moved to Boston and formed a group called the "Confederate Mountaineers" who consisted of the brothers on guitar and mandolin, Logan on fiddle, and Don Stover on banjo. They performed on WCOP’s Hayloft Jamboree and as a house band at local clubs such as the Plaza Bar, the Mohawk Ranch, and the Hillbilly Ranch. Soon, they were making records for the Folkways, Prestige and Event labels. Somewhere along the line they changed the group's name to the Lilly Brothers.
In the 1960s they appeared in concerts at several major colleges and at folk festivals. The personnel of the Lilly Brothers didn't change between 1952 and 1970 and is considered one of bluegrass music's most stable lineups. The death of Everett Lilly’s son, Giles, in a car crash in 1970 brought to an end the brothers’ career in Boston and Everett left the town. For the remainder of the 1970s, the brothers would reunite on several occasions. In 1973 the Lilly Brothers made a tremendously successful tour of Japan, including the release of three live albums. The Lilly Brothers’ career was later chronicled in a 1979 documentary "True Facts in a Country Song". In the 1980s, as Bea retired, Everett and his son Mark played together in the group "Clear Creek Crossin'".
Everett Lilly continued to play and perform with his sons in a band called Everett Lilly and the Lilly Mountaineers until his death in 2012.Carlin 2003, p. 233. Jones 2008, p. 244. Erbsen 2003, p. 49. Wolff, Duane 2000, p. 231. Black 2005, p. 50.
Joe Val once said of the Confederate Mountaineers’ influence on urban Massachusetts, Those guys hit on like a bombshell. Nobody’d ever heard anything like that before.
The Lilly Brothers’ singing has been described as rich, mountain-flavoured bluegrass and their brand of dynamic, no holds barred traditional bluegrass has been noted as haunting and earthy.Cite error: The named reference wd231 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).