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Thread: Blue Sky Boys

  1. #1
    What, me practice? Jim P.'s Avatar
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    Feb 2010

    Default Blue Sky Boys

    Watching the Ken Burns special, I was surprised (and disappointed) to see just a short mention of the Blue Sky Boys. I've long admired the mandolin playing in their music. They are possibly not a great influence but I really like their old timey style. I recall reading somewhere that Earl initially played mandolin but later switched off with Bill who took over the mando end. Is Bill the only player on their recorded output? Or is Earl on mando in there somewhere?

    Any info appreciated.


  2. #2
    Teacher, luthier
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    Oct 2017
    Southeast Tennessee

    Default Re: Blue Sky Boys

    That's par for the course for Ken Burns-- he puts his main focus on a limited number of people.

    I see that the Wikipedia article mentions Earl starting off on mandolin, but I have never heard that mentioned elsewhere. I don't know whether Wikipedia's information is accurate or not-- Wikipedia is loaded with inaccuracies, most of them minor.

    I think it would be safe to say that Bill did all the mandolin playing during their recording career.

    I remember that the first time I heard the Blue Sky Boys, I didn't know what to make of them. Later, I grew to admire their work very much.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Blue Sky Boys

    Bill Bolick was a friend of mine during the last 9 years of his life.

    According to Bill; during their early days in radio, both he and Earl played guitar and sang. When Bill eventually worked mandolin into some of their songs they began to get lots of letters saying that they liked the songs better with the mandolin, so Bill permanently switched to mandolin for all of their recordings and live performances. Bill also occasionally played banjo on the radio shows, but to the best of my knowledge, none of those recordings were ever released.

    Even though RCA promoted the Blue sky Boys as a 'country' act, (they were 2nd only to Eddy Arnold in 'country' record sales for RCA), I can't recall that Bill ever referred to himself as a country artist - I think he much more saw himself as a singer of old sad folk ballads and religious songs.

    Bill knew that his mandolin style was unique and intricate, (Jethro Burns was a BIG fan of Bill's playing), but Bill felt that he 'never really mastered' what he wanted to do. I would be happy to have 1/3 of the talent and skill that Bill had.

    Bill was a good man and I miss him every day.

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  5. #4
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Sep 2006
    Upstate New York
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    Default Re: Blue Sky Boys

    I have the Blue Sky Boys box set. And for a while i had those CDs as my exclusive rotation, just on all the time. You get those harmonies and riffs in your head and they will eventually come out your fingers. Certainly will inform your playing.
    Indulge responsibly!

    The entire staff

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  7. #5
    Registered User Timbofood's Avatar
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    Mar 2007
    Kalamazoo, MI.

    Default Re: Blue Sky Boys

    Yes, their music gets in your head and can be really embarrassing when you’re singing along with the window open at forty miles an hour and the guy in the car next to you just looks blankly! They are a fantastic duet, the humorous parts of the show were pretty interesting, “Uncle Josh” is pure corn but, at the time it was innocent and funny. Good clean family fun!
    Timothy F. Lewis
    "If brains was lard, that boy couldn't grease a very big skillet" J.D. Clampett

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