Everett Lilly's voice was a thing of natural beauty. When he sang, and even when he talked, you heard the sound of those Southern West Virginia mountains he loved. He was a bigger-than-life personality you never forgot, whether you met him on the street or heard him on the stage. Lilly died of complications from an aneurysm on May 8. He was 87.
Lilly and his brother Bea sang songs with roots that seemed to stretch back to The Carter Family and before. They were bluegrass pioneers who championed old-time Appalachian music — or, as he liked to call it, "American Mountain Country Folk Music" — in Boston, where they lived for many years. They also introduced it to Japan, where they were welcomed like music royalty.
As you'll hear in this three-song set, Everett's sense of humor was always at the forefront, and he loved to perform with his family. The first two songs come from a visit to Mountain Stage in 1998, and feature his sons Daniel and Mark Lilly. "The Orange Blossom Special," from an appearance in 1996, ends the set and includes the two boys and brother Bea. Everett never really quit performing. He was inducted into the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame in 2008, and came back to play in 2011 at the invitation of inductee Connie Smith and her husband Marty Stuart. Stuart has called Everett "God's mandolin player."
During Everett's last visit to Mountain Stage, he and his son Daniel included in their banter a joke that we'll never forget. They asked the audience, "Is anybody here from West Virginia?" and most applauded. Then they asked, "Anybody here from Ohio?" and a few clapped. "There they are, hillbillies — get 'em!" The audience roared with laughter. Where ever he went, Everett Lilly always got 'em.