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Billy Edwards

A banjo player's banjo player, Billy Edwards is a picker who isn't just bluegrass but hardcore bluegrass. His associations over four decades have proven to be with players whose names would not roll off the tongues of the casual listener who has heard of Flatt & Scruggs because they were watching Bonnie and Clyde on cable TV. A solid, five-string picker with a flair for rhythmically rocking solos, Edwards cut his teeth professionally in outfits such as the Lonesome Pine Fiddlers, the Shenandoah Cut-Ups, and Red Smiley's Bluegrass Cut-Ups, musically serious outfits all despite what some of the names might seem to imply. He was one of two banjo players who worked with the classic bluegrass outfit Hylo Brown & the Timberliners, whose recorded output was collected in the '90s by the German Bear Family label into a deluxe CD box-set entitled Hylo Brown & the Timberliners 1954-1960. The other banjoist in this group was Jim Smoak. Mandolinist Red Rector was an excellent foil for both banjo men, but this group was also equally well-known for its beautiful harmonies, achieved between leader Hylo Brown, who sang tenor, his fellow frontman Hugh Gordon Stoker, and baritone Hoyt Hawkins.

Edwards played in many groups with the excellent fiddler Tater Tate. They worked together under Smiley's leadership in the Bluegrass Cut-Ups, the entire outfit in turn serving as a backup unit for country singer and disc jockey Lee Moore, also known as "the Coffee Drinkin' Nighthawk," a colorful nickname but certainly not one that would help identify an individual on the music scene. Tate and Edwards also picked together on Curly Seckler's album Sings Again on County, joined by another one of their favorite partners, mandolinist Herschel Sizemore. Other players who Edwards has worked with include Ray Goins, Udell McPeak, Landon Messer, Bobby Osborne, Lowell Varney, Bobby Hicks, Wesley Golding, and Gene Burrows. In the late '70s and '80s, he recorded with singer and guitarist Mac Wiseman, a former vocalist for Bill Monroe & His Bluegrass Boys. ~ Eugene Chadbourne
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