The Lilly Brothers, Charles Everett and Bea, played old-time/bluegrass music together for over three decades. They may best be remembered in New England, where they were a fixture in the downtown Boston music scene from the early '60s through 1980.
Charles Everett and older sibling Mitchell Burt "Bea" Lilly were born three years apart in Clear Creek, West Virginia. Everett played the mandolin, banjo, and fiddle while Bea played guitar; both brothers sang; early influences included the Delmore Brothers, the Callahan Brothers, and the Monroes. The Lillys debuted in 1938 singing old-time country on a West Virginia radio station. They initially billed themselves as the Lonesome Holler Boys. Later they added a banjo and became a bluegrass group. In 1939, they began performing regularly at the newly established WJLS Beckley, where they performed together and with other musicians. After that they spent a few years at various Southern stations playing in such groups as the Smiling Mountain Boys and Red Belcher's Kentucky Ridgerunners.
They made their recording debut in 1948 while working with the latter group at WWVA. They remained at the station through 1950, whereupon they returned home after a heated fight with Belcher over money. From there the Lillys split up for a time; Charles became a mandolin player and tenor with Flatt & Scruggs' Foggy Mountain Boys, and remained with them through early 1952 when he left to join his brother, fiddler Tex Logan, and banjo picker Don Stover in Boston. They got their first job playing on WCOP's Hayloft Jamboree and from there hit the local club circuit.
The Lilly Brothers recorded fairly frequently during the '50s. Between 1958 and 1959, Charles spent another year with Flatt & Scruggs while Stover did a bit of touring with other bands. But for that, the Lilly Brothers remained intact through 1970. In addition to playing downtown Boston, they also played the local festival circuit and were instrumental in the development of urban bluegrass. In the early '70s, Charles and his wife Joann left Beantown and returned to West Virginia. Bea Lilly came down a while later to help Everett host a local television show, but eventually returned to the city. After 1971, Charles infrequently joined the band to perform at festivals during the summers and occasionally recorded with them. The Lilly Brothers' career was later chronicled in a 1979 documentary, True Facts in a Country Song. Suffering from Alzheimers disease, Bea Lilly died on September 18, 2005 in Plymouth, Massachusetts at the age of 83; Everett Lilly died at his home in Clear Creek on May 8, 2012; he was 87 years old. ~ Sandra Brennan