Bill Torbert Jr, former member of Jimmy Martin’s Sunny Mountain Boys, passed away on Saturday, October 24, 2020 after contracting COVID-19 in a nursing home at the age of 81.
Born in Washington, DC and raised in DC and Maryland, he started playing mandolin in the mid 1950s. Bill soon joined a band with high school friend Monte Monteith named the North Carolina Mountaineers with Chris Warner on banjo. When Monte was required to switch his day job with DC’s metro bus system to the night shift, Bill joined Jimmy Martin’s band soon afterwards.
Their first recording session took place in September 1963, and included J.D. Crowe (banjo) for four tracks – Widow Maker, I’m Thinking Tonight of my Blue Eyes, Red River Valley, and John Henry.
Their second and third recording sessions in December 1965 and January 1966 included Bill Emerson (banjo) on eight tracks – I Can’t Quit Cigarettes, Lost Highway, The Good Things Outweigh the Bad, The Summer’s Come and Gone, Fraulein, You’re Gonna Change (Or I’ma Gonna Leave), Tennessee Waltz, and Little Maggie. Bill also traveled with Jimmy playing shows and festivals including the very first multi-day bluegrass festival at Fincastle, VA in September 1965.
Bill later went on to record and play with Delmar Delaney, Jack Fincham & the Dixie Grass, and Appalachian Reign with Tom Knowles. He later rejoined his high school friend Monte Monteith in the Skystone Band, which allowed him to continue playing, recording, and performing well into his 70s. He is survived by his wife Beverly C. Torbert, and his son Bill Torbert III.
R.I.P., Bill Torbert.