Bill Mollman passes

Bill Mollman, bluegrass multi-instrumentalist from Asheboro, NC, passed away on January 25, 2022. He was 76 years old.

Mollman shared his love of music by performing and teaching banjo and guitar for many years. He played upright bass with the Bluegrass Gentleman, The Green Valley Ramblers, and other central North Carolina bluegrass and folk bands. He also was a member of the Randolph Jazz Band and Back Creek Dixie Band, playing bass and tuba, respectively.

Nick Hancock, guitarist/vocalist with the Bluegrass Gentlemen, a popular North Carolina band in the ’60s and ’70s,  shared, “I am very sad that Mr. Bill Mollman of Asheboro passed away. He was an accomplished bassist, banjo player, and tuba player.”

“Bill was an original member of The Bluegrass Gentlemen. He played bass with the group from August 1968 through January 16, 1971, according to the dates on photographs that I have. He was an excellent, solid bass player with a quiet, but very pleasant personality. He also wrote a song, Devil’s Tramping Ground, that we recorded on the Bluegrass Gentlemen album for Ozark Mountain Records. In 1972, we had no regular bass player; only subs. We asked Bill to go to Nashville with us. Bill played bass with The Bluegrass Gentlemen at the Ryman Auditorium on The Grand Ole Opry on July 21, 1972. My deepest condolences to his wife, Wilma, and his daughter, Lu Anne Mollman Simpson.”

Former Bluegrass Gentlemen mandolinist and friend, Jerry Stuart, stated, “Bill was a good bass player and a fine man. I was never full time in a band with Bill, but played many times in jams with him. He did not run other musicians down.”

“Tom Gray was his musical hero on bass, and I had played with Tom in DC years earlier. An opportunity arose to appear as a guest on the Opry, andwe were short a bass player. Bill Mollman was playing with The Green Valley Ramblers, but he agreed to come back to the Bluegrass Gentlemen for the Opry trip. That was a thrill to play on the stage of the Ryman. This was just before they moved to the new Opry house. We will miss him and send our condolences to Wilma and their family.”

Green Valley Ramblers’ guitarist, Albert Vestal, reflected on his time with Mollman. “Bill Mollman joined The Green Valley Ramblers in 1970. It was an honor for Bill to play with us on the GVR album, Bluegrass Dawn, in 1974. Bill was a very talented musician. My most enjoyable memory was Bill swapping licks on the bass with Tom Gray behind my bus. Bill was a good friend and a fine musician.”

Tony Williamson, GVR mandolinist, added, “I was extremely fortunate to have played with Bill Mollman in my very first band. In his bass playing, he had impeccable timing, unerring speed, and a deep understanding of his instrument. He went beyond the basic approach that most old-time and bluegrass players used at that time, and took a huge role in making creativity and spontaneity the backbone of our music.”

Bill’s service was held on January 30 at First Methodist Church in Asheboro.

Memorials for a scholarship in Bill Mollman’s name may be mailed to:

Asheboro High School Band
Attn: Phil Holmiller
1221 S. Park Street
Asheboro, NC 27203

If you will indulge me a personal memory… Bill was my first banjo teacher when I was fifteen years old. He started me in Earl Scruggs’ book, but I began bringing in tunes that I wanted to learn. I remember taking Carl Jackson’s Bluegrass Festival album (Prize Records, 1971) and asking to learn Stoney Creek. Bill teased, “Girl, you’re wearing me out. I have to learn these tunes to teach them to you.” He learned it, taught it to me, and I still pick it today. I am thankful for Bill working so diligently with me. The music world lost a good man with a heart of gold.

R.I.P., Bill Mollman.

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About the Author

Sandy Hatley

Sandy Chrisco Hatley is a free lance writer for several NC newspapers and Bluegrass Unlimited magazine. As a teenager, she picked banjo with an all girl band called the Happy Hollow String Band. Today, she plays dobro with her husband's band, the Hatley Family.