March 18, 2008

Sad to say that Bill Bolick of the brother duet the Blue Sky Boys died. He was one of the last of the greats from the 1930s, tremendous and important musician.

Hickory Daily Record | Last of famous local brother duo dies at age 90

HICKORY -- The last of Hickory’s Blue Sky Boys died Friday. William A. “Bill” Bolick was 90.

He and his late brother, Earl Bolick, grew up in west Hickory, where their father’s battery-powered radio and a $4.95 mail-order banjo ignited a spark that boosted the brothers first to statewide radio fame and later to national stardom.

Bill Bolick eventually got a guitar, too, but traded it for his brother’s mandolin. The two instruments and the two west Hickory voices created a style that stood out from the many brother duets of the 1930s and ’40s.

Alan Justice, a second cousin to the Bolick brothers, particularly likes the way country music scholar Bill Malone described the Blue Sky Boys’ sound: “the prettiest and smoothest harmony ever achieved in country music.”

The Blue Sky Boys had radio shows in Asheville, Atlanta, Raleigh, Greenville, S.C., Bristol, Va., Rome, Ga., and Shreveport, La., before and after recording for RCA Victor. The record company called them “the new hillbilly kings.” The pictures seem to say something different. Maybe the Bolicks started off in plaid shirts and straw hats but they ended up in suits and ties, their hair slicked back and their smiles confident.

It’s the same confidence they carried into the U.S. Army in 1941, expecting to be back on the radio in a year. Bill Bolick, who served in the Pacific Theater, wasn’t discharged until Christmas Day, 1945. He returned home three months after his brother. They were back on the radio by March 1946.

In a 1994 interview, Bill Bolick recalled, “We really didn’t know what to do. We started entertaining so early in life that we never learned any other type of work.“

The Blue Sky Boys retired from the music business in 1951. Earl Bolick moved to Georgia with his wife and two sons. He became a machinist with Lockheed Aircraft.

Bill Bolick went to work with the railway mail service in Washington, D.C., and then transferred to Greensboro.

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