About The Group
The Lilly Brothers are best known for leading the first bluegrass band in New England. However, they had a decade of professional experience behind them-primarily as an old time duet-before they went to Boston, Massachusetts with their music. The brothers grew up learning their music skills in the community of Clear Creek, some fifteen miles from Beckley in Raleigh County, West Virginia.
In addition to local musicians, Everett and Bea came under the influence of various duet acts that recorded extensively during the 1930's. The Delmores, Callahans, Monroes, and Blue Sky Boys all had an impact on their vocal work with Bill Monroe's mandolin inspiring Everett's skills on that instrument. Everett also learned to play fiddle and "drop thumb" banjo. Bea stuck to guitar. Everett recalled they first played on WCHS Charleston's Old Farm Hour. They got more experiences on new station WJLS Beckley, nearer their home. They appeared there with other aspiring musicians, some of whom also made names for themselves such as Little Jimmy Dickens, Johnnie Bailes, Walter Bailes, Lynn Davis, Molly O'Day (as Dixie Lee Williamson) and her brother Skeets, and Speedy Krise, as well as others who never made it very far out of Beckley. They also worked in coal mines.
The Lillys first experience out of West Virginia seems to have happened about 1945 when they went to WNOX to work as part of Molly O'Day, Lynn Davis & their Cumberland Folks. Lynn recalled that they were pretty na´ve about city ways and that they had never seen running water from a faucet before. After Speedy Krise and Skeets came back from the service, the Lillys became part of another WNOX band, The Smiling Mountain Boys which included Burk Barbour and a WJLS friend named Paul Taylor.
After returning home for a break, the Lilly Brothers went to WWVA Wheeling with its World Original Jamboree and as part of Red Belcher's Cumberland Ridge Runners where they became quite popular. They made their first recordings on the Page label of Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Bea also made a recording helping Belcher, but Everett chose only to record as part of the Lilly Brothers. He would later change his view.
The Lilly Brothers had each been paid sixty dollars a week with Belcher, but at some point a year or so later, he decided to reduce their pay by ten bucks or replace them with Mel & Stan, the Kentucky Twins. They decided to leave and went to WMMN Fairmont. Their stay there also proved brief and they went back to Clear Creek. Everett soon took a job playing mandolin with Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs who were at WVLK in Versailles, Kentucky. They soon moved to WBDJ in Roanoke and finally to WPTF Raleigh, North Carolina. They were also on Columbia Records which may have influenced Everett to change his view on cuttings discs only as part of the Lilly Brothers. Also his name did appear on the label when he and Lester sang duets. At any rate in 1951, he did two sessions as a Foggy Mountain Boy.
In 1952, Tex Logan who had worked with the Lillys at WWVA stopped at WDBJ and recruited Everett along with Bea and Don Stover to play at WCOP Boston Hayloft Jamboree as part of a new group called the Confederate Mountaineers. They also worked numerous clubs briefly at spots such as the Plaza and Mohawk, and then for some seventeen to eighteen years at the Hillbilly Ranch. Logan eventually left, but the others remained (with short breaks, except for Everett's eight-month return to Flatt and Scruggs in 1958) until 1970.
Although initially limited, the Lilly Brothers and Stover did get more recording opportunities.
In 1956 and 1957, they cut eleven numbers for Al Hawkes' Event label in Maine. Although only four numbers were released at the time, they all eventually came out first on a County album and later a Rebel CD. In 1961, Folkways did a whole album and a little later Prestige did two, one with the Lillys and Stover and another just with Everett and Bea. Don Stover and Bea also were on four cuts of the Folkway album Mountain Music Bluegrass Style made during Everett's second stint with the Foggy Mountain Boys. Over the years a live LP came out in Japan and one CD each in the U. S. from the Hillbilly Ranch and from shows at WCOP, respectively.
In spite of the long tenure at Hillbilly Ranch, there were some rough spots. Management frowned when they would take off to do a special show such as at Carnegie Hall or the University of Chicago. But they were settled peacefully. What was not so peaceful was Everett's son Jiles being killed in a car wreck on January 17, 1970. Everett decided to forsake urban life and go back to the slower-paced routine of Clear Creek. A farewell concert in February helped defray their expenses.
Both returned to Raleigh County. Everett secured a 13-week TV program, but Bea and wife returned to Boston and Everett had to finish the contract by himself, They were still in demand for bluegrass festivals and played three or four a year usually with Don Stover and Tex Logan. In 1973, Robert Tanaka, a Japanese friend they had made at the Hillbilly Ranch, arranged a tour of Japan for them that was not only successful, but was followed by two more. Don Stover and Everett Alan Lilly went along to play banjo and bass, respectively. In 1973, they recorded a sacred album for County What Will I Leave Behind, later reissued on a Rebel CD with liner notes by yours truly.
Everett secured a nine month day job as a school bus driver and the Brothers were subjects of a documentary film True Facts in a Country Song that premiered at the West Virginia Culture Center in Charleston (the only movie premier I ever attended by invitation). Years later, it was released on DVD. Although sometimes playing only once or twice a year the Lilly Brothers remained semi-active.
Meanwhile as Everett's children-or at least Charlie, Mark, and Daniel-grew up, he organized them into a band, Everett Lilly and Clear Creek Crossing. Charlie Lilly also had a group and sometimes worked as a sideman in Nashville until he was killed in a car wreck in 2006. A grand-daughter Jennifer Lilly recorded a CD with the help of Glenville State's Buddy Griffin. After Everett retired from his day job, he and Bea eventually worked together as the Lilly Brothers and the Lilly Mountaineers although as Bea's health failed he could do little more than stand on stage and play rhythm guitar.
Bea eventually passed on at age 83, but Everett held on a little longer. His children put together a final disc with guest artists much like what had been done for Bill Monroe and Ralph Stanley in later years. Everett died a few weeks before his 88th birthday.
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