Everett Lilly, who was largely credited, along with his brother Burt and their band mates Don Stover and Tex Logan, with introducing bluegrass music to New England, died on Tuesday at his home in Clear Creek, W.Va. He was 87.
Mr. Lilly had been found to have an aneurysm and probably died of a heart attack, his son Daniel said.
Mr. Lilly and his brother grew up singing close harmonies in the style of the Monroe Brothers, the Blue Sky Boys and other Depression-era duos. During the 1940s they performed on radio stations and in churches, schoolhouses and theaters in their native Appalachia before moving to Boston in 1952. There, teaming with Mr. Stover and Mr. Logan, they brought bluegrass and old-time music to college campuses, folk festivals and nightclubs throughout the Northeast.
Mr. Lilly played mandolin and sang high tenor in the group, which was known as the Lilly Brothers and Don Stover. (He also occasionally played fiddle, guitar and banjo.) Mr. Lilly’s brother, who died in 2005, sang lead vocals and played acoustic guitar. Mr. Stover, who died in 1996, was the band’s banjoist. Mr. Logan, who is still living, was the fiddle player.
The Lillys’ keening vocal harmonies and hard-driving instrumental sound were well suited to Boston’s rough-and-tumble Hillbilly Ranch, a nightclub where, as the de facto house band for almost two decades, they entertained a mix of blue-collar and university regulars. They also appeared on “The Hayloft Jamboree” on the Boston radio station WCOP and toured widely, exposing urban audiences to traditional rural music.
Before moving to the Northeast, Mr. Lilly spent the better part of two years as the mandolin player and tenor singer in Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs’s band, the Foggy Mountain Boys. He appeared on the Grand Ole Opry with Flatt and Scruggs, as well as on several of their early-’50s recordings for Columbia, including “ ’Tis Sweet to Be Remembered,” “Earl’s Breakdown” and “Don’t Get Above Your Raisin’.”
Charles Everett Lilly was born on July 1, 1924, in Clear Creek, W.Va., the son of a carpenter. He and his brother worked in the coal fields near their home as teenagers but soon abandoned the mines to pursue a career in music, billing themselves early on as the Lonesome Holler Boys.
The brothers moved to Knoxville, Tenn., in 1945 to appear on WNOX with the country star Molly O’Day. In 1948 they began performing on the WWVA Jamboree in Wheeling, W.Va., and made their first recordings for the local Page label. They later recorded for Folkways, Prestige and other independent labels.
In 1970 Mr. Lilly returned to West Virginia after his son Jiles was killed in an automobile accident. He and his brother performed in public less frequently as the years progressed. Their career together was chronicled in the 1979 documentary “True Facts in a Country Song.” The Lilly Brothers and Don Stover were inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Hall of Fame in 2002.
In addition to his son Daniel, Mr. Lilly is survived by his wife of 64 years, JoAnn; two other sons, Mark and Everett Alan; four daughters, Karen Pierangelino, Diana Tomah, Ann Lilly and Laverne Wheeler; a sister, Flossie Williams; and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Mr. Lilly continued to perform, with his sons Daniel and Mark, in a group called the Lilly Mountaineers until his death.
“He played music right up to the end,” Daniel Lilly said. “He was enjoying life and still riding his four-wheeler through the woods at the age of 87. He died at the kitchen table.”