Author: Varner, Mark

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Dear friends,

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, grassers. Why we should celebrate anyone who was so anti-reptile is beyond me, but hey, any excuse for a party. Stay away from green beer and don’t drink and drive, please.

Hopefully everyone got a sample of the innumerable bluegrass events presented this weekend. My kith and kin were like a reenactment of the medieval plague, so I was immured in my humble domicile while some seriously great music was being performed. This cold-flu-whatever-the-heck-it-is is virulent as all get out. Oh, well, we should be healthy by April 10 for the CBA campout in Turlock!

I got the lineup for the 2008 GOF festival today: Abbott Family Band, Amazing Dr. Zarcon's Breathing Machine, Bean Creek, Belle Monroe & Her Brew Glass Boys, Common Cents, Courthouse Ramblers, Cross Roads, Earthquake Country, Faux Renwah, Highway One, Houston Jones, Jimmy Chickenpants, Keystone Station, Kids On Stage, Kitchen Help, Mighty Crows, Mossy Creek, Nell Robinson & Red Level, Page Brownton & Sidetrack, Rogue River, Scott Gates & Pacific Ocean Bluegrass Band, Smiley Mountain Band, Stoney Mountain Ramblers, Western Lights, Wronglers, and special guest Yodeling Lady Lolita. Congrats to all those bands. If you submitted and didn’t make the cut we’ll see you on the tweener stage!

I’ve still got the Blue Sky Boys on my mind, having lost the second of the two brothers at the age of 90 (way to go, Bill!) last week. Sadly, this musical great was not honored sufficiently in the press. I did get a very nice obituary from his hometown newspaper.

Your pal,
Mark Varner

Last of famous local brother duo dies at age 90

From Staff reports
Hickory Daily Record
Sunday, March 16, 2008

HICKORY -- The last of Hickory’s Blue Sky Boys died Friday. William A. “Bill” Bolick was 90.

He and his late brother, Earl Bolick, grew up in west Hickory, where their father’s battery-powered radio and a $4.95 mail-order banjo ignited a spark that boosted the brothers first to statewide radio fame and later to national stardom.

Bill Bolick eventually got a guitar, too, but traded it for his brother’s mandolin. The two instruments and the two west Hickory voices created a style that stood out from the many brother duets of the 1930s and ‘40s.

Alan Justice, a second cousin to the Bolick brothers, particularly likes the way country music scholar Bill Malone described the Blue Sky Boys’ sound: “the prettiest and smoothest harmony ever achieved in country music.”

The Blue Sky Boys had radio shows in Asheville, Atlanta, Raleigh, Greenville, S.C., Bristol, Va., Rome, Ga., and Shreveport, La., before and after recording for RCA Victor. The record company called them “the new hillbilly kings.” The pictures seem to say something different. Maybe the Bolicks started off in plaid shirts and straw hats but they ended up in suits and ties, their hair slicked back and their smiles confident.

It’s the same confidence they carried into the U.S. Army in 1941, expecting to be back on the radio in a year. Bill Bolick, who served in the Pacific Theater, wasn’t discharged until Christmas Day, 1945. He returned home three months after his brother. They were back on the radio by March 1946.

In a 1994 interview, Bill Bolick recalled, “We really didn’t know what to do. We started entertaining so early in life that we never learned any other type of work.”

The Blue Sky Boys retired from the music business in 1951. Earl Bolick moved to Georgia with his wife and two sons. He became a machinist with Lockheed Aircraft.

Bill Bolick went to work with the railway mail service in Washington, D.C., and then transferred to Greensboro. In February 1957, he married Doris Wallace. He remained a devoted husband until his death last week, says Justice, who inherited Bolick’s old instruments, records and songbooks. In one of the man’s boxes, Justice found what he guesses are 100 cards - every one Doris ever gave her husband. He saved them all.

Justice hopes people will remember that about his cousin - the World War II vet was more than a smooth tenor and a smooth smile.

“He was really as true a gentleman as anyone I’ve ever met,” Justice says.
Posted:  3/17/2008

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