The Vandalia Award, West Virginia’s highest folklife honor, will be presented to state, national and international musical pioneer, talented performer and ambassador of traditional mountain culture, Everett Lilly of Clear Creek, Raleigh County, on Saturday, May 23, as part of the 33rd annual Vandalia Gathering. The award will be given to Lilly during a 6:30 p.m. ceremony and concert in the Norman L. Fagan West Virginia State Theater in the Culture Center, State Capitol Complex, Charleston. Lilly and his band Everett Lilly and the Lilly Mountaineers also will perform during the concert. The event is free, and the public is invited to attend.
The West Virginia Division of Culture and History presents the Vandalia Award annually to a West Virginian who has made outstanding contributions to the continuation of the state’s folk heritage. The award recognizes lifetime achievement in the performance, creation or perpetuation of West Virginia traditional arts. The Vandalia Gathering, an annual three-day festival of traditional arts and folk heritage, is celebrated Memorial Day weekend at the Culture Center and the State Capitol grounds. More than 40,000 people attend the three-day festival each year.
Everett, with his late brother “B,” traveled the world, performing and promoting their bluegrass musical roots. Known as the Lilly Brothers and playing with neighbor Don Stover, the group spread the word about the down-home music to New England and later, in the 1970s, to Japan, where they were the first professional bluegrass band to perform in the country.
One of seven children, Everett began singing with brother B at an early age, mostly at the local Methodist church, where their father played the pump organ. They also spent time with various musicians in the region and soon became interested in recording and radio musicians of their time, including Mainer’s Mountaineers, the Monroe Brothers, the Delmore Brothers and the Carter Family, to name a few. They began to visit churches, schools, shows, radio stations and theaters to perform. While still teenagers, they were on WCHS radio’s Old Farm Hour in Charleston. In 1948, they joined the Saturday night Wheeling Jamboree on WWVA. Their work was broadcast to New England and Canada over the radio station’s powerful signal.
In 1951 Everett joined Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs in the popular Foggy Mountain Boys band, eventually recording 14 songs with the group. In approximately one year though, Everett received an invitation to form a band in Boston with fiddler, Tex Logan, whom he’d known from his time in Wheeling. Everett, B and Stover moved north and played under the name the Confederate Mountaineers. Soon they had a steady job playing at the Hillbilly Ranch, on the edge of Boston’s entertainment district.
By the 1960s, the group, calling itself the Lilly Brothers, became part of a folk music revival, traveling and playing in New England and the Midwest. In the early 1970s, after the death of his 16-year-old son Jiles in a car accident, Everett moved back to West Virginia. In the last 30 years, Everett has performed with his other sons in the bands Clear Creek Crossing and the Lilly Mountaineers, occasionally joined by B, until his death in 2005.
The Lilly Brothers and Don Stover were inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) Hall of Fame in 2002 and the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame in 2008. Everett’s recording Everybody and Their Brother, was named the IBMA Recorded Event of the Year in 2008.
Everett Lilly is the 29th recipient of the Vandalia Award. He will be featured in the Summer 2009 issue of Goldenseal, the magazine of West Virginia Traditional Life. For more information about the Vandalia Gathering or the Vandalia Award, contact Jacqueline Proctor, deputy commissioner for the Division, at (304) 558-0220.
The West Virginia Division of Culture and History, an agency of the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts, brings together the state’s past, present and future through programs and services in the areas of archives and history, the arts, historic preservation and museums. Its administrative offices are located at the Culture Center in the State Capitol Complex in Charleston, which also houses the state archives and state museum. The Culture Center is West Virginia’s official showcase for the arts. The agency also operates a network of museums and historic sites across the state. For more information about the Division’s programs, visit www.wvculture.org. The Division of Culture and History is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.
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