He had been hospitalized earlier this month, suffering from a brain bleed. Doctors resisted surgery to relieve the pressure as his platelets count was dangerously low. Yates had appeared to be making a miraculous recovery when he passed Monday evening, January 26.
Born April 30, 1936 in Big Rock, VA, Bill started performing while still a young man. An early band, the Clinch Mountain Ramblers, included his brother Wayne and the great Red Allen. Prior to his twenty year stint with The Country Gentlemen, Bill worked with bluegrass legends Bill Monroe and Jimmy Martin.
He worked with the Gentlemen from 1969 until he retired in ’89, but returned to performing after his longtime musical partner, Charlie Waller, passed away in 2004. No longer playing bass, Bill sang and led the stage show with Bill Yates & the Country Gentlemen Tribute Band until his passing. They featured the Gentlemen repertoire Bill had played and sung with the likes of Doyle Lawson, Bill Emerson, Jerry Douglas, Jimmy Gaudreau, Charlie Waller and many others.
Here’s a video of the Gents during their hey day in a clip from the film Bluegrass Country Soul, shot in 1972.
Rest in Peace, Bill Yates.