The Lilly Brothers Biography

Mitchell B. Lilly (15 December 1921) and Charles Everett Lilly (b. 1 July 1923) were both born at Clear Creek, near Beckley, West Virginia, USA. Always known as Bea and Everett, the two brothers began performing in the mid-30s, being especially influenced by Bill Monroe and the Blue Sky Boys. In the late 30s, using mandolin and guitar to back their high harmony vocals, they began their professional career. In 1939, they played theOld Farm Hour, at the radio station WCHS Charleston, as the Lonesome Holler Boys. They sometimes played three radio shows a day as well as evening dances, and in late 1939 and 1940, they were a very popular act on WJLS Beckley. When America became involved in World War II, Everett joined the armed forces. In 1945, they played with Molly O’Day at Beckley and also at KRLD Dallas and WNOX Knoxville. They next formed the Smiling Mountain Boys, which included Paul Taylor, Fiddling Burk Barbour (fiddle) and Lonnie Glosson (harmonica), but surprisingly, they refused the opportunity to record for King Records. Between 1948 and 1950, they were a featured duet with Red Belcher And His Kentucky Ridge Runners and played WWVA Wheeling with him. The brothers split up in 1950 when Everett joined Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, playing mandolin and taking tenor vocals. In 1951, he appeared on the classic Flatt and Scruggs Columbia Records recordings of such numbers as ‘Somehow Tonight’, ‘Tis Sweet To Be Remembered’ and ‘Over The Hills To The Poorhouse’ (he was the only sideman of their band to receive a billing on a record label).

Late in 1952, the brothers reunited and relocated to Boston, where with Don Stover (b. 6 March 1928, White Oak, West Virginia, USA, d. 11 November 1996, USA; banjo) and Tex Logan (b. Benjamin Logan Jnr., 1930, Coahoma, Howard County, Texas, USA; fiddle), and initially calling themselves the Confederate Mountaineers, they played local radio, television and clubs for several years until for a short time in 1958. Everett again joined Flatt And Scruggs. In 1959, the Lillys and Stover began to play at Boston’sHillbilly Ranch, where they stayed for approximately 16 years. In 1960, they were recorded live at this venue by Robert Tainaka and a tape of their act gained album release in Japan, with the result that the Lilly Brothers became the most popular act of its kind in that country.

Everett Lilly retired, heartbroken, back to West Virginia following the death in a car crash of his son, Giles, in 1970. Bea stayed in Boston and Stover went on to form his own band. In 1973, the brothers and Stover were persuaded to re-form and not only recorded an album for the County label but actually made two tours of Japan. Their success was described as ‘nothing less than phenomenal’ and the live recording of one concert resulted in the release of three albums. Everett later worked for a Japanese company and arranged further tours for American bluegrass groups to tour Japan. They continued to play their mountain, folk and old-time music on occasions at folk festivals and colleges. In 1979, they featured as the subjects of an educational film, True Facts In A Country Song. There were many brother harmony acts in West Virginia but it seems that only the Lillys, along with the Bailes Brothers, really gained a reputation of any significance outside their own state.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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