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The Blue Sky Boys

In the '30s, brother duets were common in country music: Among the better known were the Monroes, the Delmores, the Dixons, and the Carlisles. Bill and Earl Bolick, who in 1936 were ready to make their first recording, followed their producer's suggestion that they should be different by avoiding the word "brother." From "Blue Ridge Mountains, Land of the Sky" they took two words and named their act. But the Bolicks would have been different without the new name. Their intricate yet simple harmonies, their perfectly matching voices, and their unadorned mandolin and guitar instrumental backing set them off from the competition, so much so that two generations of subsequent duet singers echo them, some without realizing it. The Everly Brothers and the Louvin Brothers, themselves recognized as exceptional vocal duets, acknowledge the influence of the Blue Sky Boys. In the '50s, when tastes in country music changed drastically, the Blue Sky Boys retired from music rather than forsake their love of old mountain ballads for the uptempo popularity of electric instruments, drums, and honky tonk. In the '60s they were coaxed to come out of retirement, playing an occasional college date during the hootenanny phenomenon and recording albums in 1963, 1965, and 1976.

Born and raised in East Hickory, NC, Bill and Earl Bolick -- the fourth and fifth of six children by deeply religious parents -- learned how to harmonize by singing hymns and gospel songs at home. Bill learned how to play guitar and banjo from his neighbor, teaching Earl in the process. Earl had been given a mandolin, but he preferred guitar, so the two brothers switched instruments and began performing as a duo. Bill also performed with another local group, the Crazy Hickory Nuts, who happened to land a radio spot in Asheville, NC, in 1935. Shortly afterward, the siblings formed the JFG Coffee Boys with Homer Sherrill, a fiddler who played with the Crazy Hickory Nuts, and the new group also had a regular spot on Asheville radio. The group stayed in Asheville for a while, before moving to Atlanta to play as the Blue Ridge Hillbillies. While in Atlanta, the Bolicks split away from Sherrill and recorded several sides for RCA Victor, which were released under the name the Blue Sky Boys.

Over the next four years, the Blue Sky Boys made nearly 100 recordings for RCA that made them one of the more popular brother duos of the period. The Bolicks' career was sidetracked in 1941, when the brothers both entered the military to fight in World War II. Early in 1946, they were discharged, and they returned to playing radio in Atlanta and recording for RCA. Occasionally, the duo recorded with a fiddler, usually Sam "Curley" Parker, Joe Tyson, Leslie Keith, or Richard "Red" Hicks. Many of the records from 1946 and 1947, including "Kentucky," ranked among their biggest hits, but by the end of 1947 the duo was growing frustrated at the changing climates in country music and their record label as well. Honky tonk music was beginning to take over the country market, and the Bolicks refused to bend to fit into the new instrumental style. RCA asked them to add an electric guitar and try some newer songs, but they steadfastly refused and didn't even record until 1949. Over the course of the next year, they made a handful of recordings, performing their final sessions for RCA in the spring of 1950.

Given their frustrations about the changes in country music, the Blue Sky Boys disbanded and retired from music in 1951. For the next 11 years, they were silent, with Bill living and working for the post office in North Carolina and Earl making his residence in Georgia, working at Lockheed Aircraft. Starday Records released an album of Blue Sky Boys radio transcriptions in 1962. The following year, Bill convinced Earl to come out of retirement and record two albums, the secular Together Again and the inspirational Precious Moments, for Starday. Over the next few years, they played the occasional concert and appeared at folk festivals. In 1965, Capitol released a live album capturing the duo at the UCLA Folk Festival. By the end of the '60s, the Blue Sky Boys had retired again. In 1975, the Bolicks were coaxed out of retirement to record an album for Rounder and play several bluegrass and folk festivals. Shortly afterward, Bill retired and moved back to his hometown of East Hickory, while Earl settled in Tucker, GA.

No one in country music has done vocal duets better than the Blue Sky Boys. If your taste runs more to Conway and Loretta, George and Tammy, or Wynonna and Naomi, listen to the effortless, exquisite singing of Bill and Earl Bolick. See where it all started. ~ David Vinopal
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: The Collection 1936-1951

Disc 1

1. The Sweetest Gift (A Mother's Smile)

2. Sunny Side Of Life

3. Alabama

4. Tears On Her Bridal Bouquet

5. Turn Your Radio On

6. Dust On The Bible

7. Why Not Confess

8. Pictures From Life's Other Side

9. Kentucky

10. The Story Of The Knoxville Girl

11. Are You From Dixie

12. The Lightning Express

13. Mary Of The Wild Moor

14. The Butcher's Boy

15. Whispering Hope

16. Didn't They Crucify My Lord

17. Only Let Me Walk With Me

18. Where The Soul (Of Man) Never Dies

19. I'm Just Here To Get My Baby Out Of Jail

20. Down On The Banks Of The Ohio

Disc 2

1. Short Life Of Trouble

2. The Picture On The Wall

3. Sold Down The River

4. I'm Going To Write To Heaven (For I Know My Daddy's There)

5. There's Been A Change

6. She's Somebody's Darling Once More

7. This Evening Light

8. Father Dear Father, Come Home

9. Only One More Step Away

10. The Last Mile Of The Way

11. We Parted By The Riverside

12. No Disappointment In Heaven

13. Beautiful Beautiful Brown Eyes

14. We Buried Her

15. The Old Fashioned Meeting

16. Katie Dear

17. My Last Letter

18. Midnight On The Stormy Sea

19. Let's Not Sleep Again

20. Behind These Prison Walls Of Love

Disc 3

1. The House Where We Were Wed

2. God Sent My Little Girl

3. Someone's Last Day

4. She'll Be There

5. The Royal Telephone Is It Ours

6. The Convict And The Rose

7. I'm S-A-V-E-D

8. Don't Say Goodbye If You Love Me

9. Speak To Me, Little Darlin'

10. Have You Seen My Daddy Here

11. Come To The Saviour

12. Garden In The Sky

13. I'll Take My Saviour By The Hand

14. You've Branded Your Name On My Heart

15. Little Mother Of The Hills

16. The Prisoner's Dream

17. Answer To The Prisoner's Dream

18. Who Wouldn't Be Lonely

19. Last Night While Standing By My Window

20. Can't You Hear That Night Bird Crying?

x

Track List: The Very Best Of

1. I'm Just Here To Get My Baby Out Of Jail

2. Sunny Side Of Life

3. Where The Soul Never Dies

4. Take Up Thy Cross

5. Down On The Banks Of The Ohio

6. I'm Troubled, I'm Troubled

7. The Dying Boy's Prayer

8. Didn't They Crucify My Lord

9. An Old Account Was Settled

10. No Disappointment In Heaven

11. Story Of The Knoxville Girl

12. Beautiful, Beautiful Brown Eyes

13. When The Stars Begin To Fall

14. Old Fashioned Meeting

15. Katie Dear

16. This Is Like Heaven To Me

17. Are You From Dixie

18. Give Me My Roses Now

19. The Lightning Express

20. The Royal Telephone

21. Father, Dear Father, Come Home

22. The East Bound Train

23. The Last Mile Of The Way

24. I'm S-A-V-E-D

25. Whispering Hope

26. Turn Your Radio On

27. Kneel At The Cross

28. Brown Eyes

29. Pictures From Life's Other Side

30. Dust On The Bible

31. Kentucky

32. Garden In The Sky

33. The Sweetest Gift, A Mother's Smile

34. Paper Boy

35. Sunny Side Of Life

x

Track List: The Sunny Side Of Life

1. The Sunny Side Of Life

2. I Have Found The Way

3. Nine Pound Hammer

4. The Longest Train I Ever Saw

5. Black Mountain Blues

6. As Long As I Live

7. Row Us Over The Tide

8. There's Been A Change

x

Track List: On Radio - Volume 4

1. Opening Theme And Introduction

2. Life's Railway To Heaven

3. Are You Tired Of Me, My Darling

4. Comedy With Uncle Josh

5. Sally Goodin'

6. I Have Found A Friend

7. Darling, Think Of What You've Done

8. Advertisement

9. Leather Britches

10. Requests For Cards And Letters

11. When The Stars Begin To Fall

12. Mary Of The Wild Moor

13. Comedy With Uncle Josh

14. Chicken Reel

15. Shall I Miss It

16. The House Where We Were Wed

17. Comedy With Uncle Josh

18. Buffalo Gal

19. A Beautiful Life

20. East Bound Train

21. Advertisement

22. Ragtime Annie

23. Silver Threads Among The Gold

24. Request For Showdates

25. Song Of The Blind

26. Comedy With Uncle Josh

27. Precious Memories

28. Won't It Be Wonderful There

29. Comedy With Uncle Josh

30. Cumberland Gap

31. Closing Theme

x

Track List: On Radio, Vol. 1

1. Opening Theme

2. The Blood Of Jesus

3. Just A Strand From A Yellow Curl

4. Comedy

5. Will You Meet Me Over Yonder?

6. Katy Hill

7. Will My Mother Know Me There?

8. Take Me Back To Renfro Valley

9. Adverstisement

10. Comedy

11. The Holiness Mother

12. 8th Of January

13. When I Reach That City On The Hill

14. Trail To Mexico

15. Comedy

16. Someone'S Last Day

17. Ida Red

18. That Beautiful Home

19. The Longest Train I Ever Saw

20. Advertisement

21. Comedy

22. What Would You Give In Exchange For Your Soul

23. Old Joe Clark

24. Row Us Over The Tide

25. Why Should It End This Way?

26. Comedy

27. Gathering Buds

28. Lost Train Blues

29. Closing & Theme

x

Track List: The Blue Sky Boys

1. Don't This Road Look Rough And Rocky

2. Green Grow The Lilacs

3. The Lawson Family Tragedy

4. You Could Be A Millionaire

5. Curley Headed Baby

6. If I Could Hear My Mother Pray Again

7. Tramp On The Street

8. Searching For A Soldier's Grave

9. Just A Strand From A Yellow Curl

10. Unloved And Unclaimed

11. Let Me Be Your Salty Dog

12. My Main Trial

13. What Does The Deep Sea Say?

14. When I Take My Vacation In Heaven

x

Track List: Presenting The Blue Sky Boys

1. Corrina Corrina

2. Wild & Reckless Hobo

3. Midnight Special

4. Who's Gonna Shoe Your Pretty Little Feet

5. Poor Boy

6. Oh Those Tombs

7. I Don't Want Your Greenback Dollar

8. Jack O'Diamonds

9. The Unquiet Grave

10. Cotton Mill Colic

11. Oh Marry In Time

12. Will The Circle Be Unbroken

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