Blue Sky Boys Live on Patuxent

Few American artists influenced the development of bluegrass harmony as thoroughly and completely as The Blue Sky Boys. Earl and Bill Bolick performed together for 40 years, applying their church-style singing to both sacred and secular material, leaving a mark on all the country and mountain music that followed.

Coincident with the publication of The Blue Sky Boys book (University Press of Mississippi) Tom Mindte of Patuxent Records has produced a 4-CD set with three complete Blue Sky Boys 1940s shows, and a wealth of songs from others, all from the period 1939 to 1949. 

The original 16-inch 33 1/3 rpm lacquers, with sound restoration by Mindte, are from WGST (Atlanta), WCYB (Bristol) and one from WPTF (Raleigh) in 1941.  

As well as a multitude of songs the set includes some comedy with the legendary Uncle Josh and a few 1947 Willys Jeep commercials.  

Elder Blue Sky Boy Bill Bolick relates that the brothers recorded five 15-minute programs in one afternoon; this was normal. “On four or five occasions we did as many as ten programs in one day.” From the period 1946-1947, alone, for WGST the Blue Sky Boys recorded no less than 140 programs. 

In his liner notes with these recordings the author of The Blue Sky Boys book, Dick Spottswood, gives some context relating to the later transcriptions …. 

“Although the Blue Sky Boys were active RCA artists from 1946 to 1950, their broadcasts did little to promote their new records, and only a few RCA titles are duplicated here. Bill didn’t care for a number of songs Steve Sholes was pitching, and those he considered second rate were rarely performed again.  

Instead, their broadcasts revisited traditional songs and hymns that were responsive to listener tastes and their own. By the time of these broadcasts in 1946-49, their voices were mature and their confident performances rarely less than immaculate. RCA wouldn’t let them record vocal trios, but their radio and live shows featured them regularly, with Curly Parker (and later Leslie Keith) singing lead to Bill’s tenor and Earl’s bass. They especially liked trios on hymns, and the format suited a lot of secular material just as well. Five complete broadcasts are included in this collection, including complete auditions from 1939 and 1941.”

On Sunday, May 13 (2018), Mindte, Spottswood and Matt Barton will host a special Blue Sky Boys’ feature at the Epicure Café in Fairfax, Virginia.

At 5:00 p.m. there will be an ARSC (the Association for Recorded Sound Collections) presentation by Spottswood, who will be talking about and signing copies of his newly published book about the North Carolina brothers whose old songs and vocal harmonies captivated southern radio audiences for generations.

Following that, at 7:00 p.m., top Nashville musicians Corrina Rose Logston and Jeremy Stephens – both members of High Fidelity – will perform some Blue Sky Boys favorites and other duets.

Mindte will be available to discuss this recently released 4-CD set and to sign copies.  

In addition to Spottswood, other Bluegrass Country presenters Ivy Sheppard and Chris Teskey will be in attendance.  

The Blue Sky Boys: 1939 – 1949 Radio Broadcasts (Patuxent CD-280), released on April 20, 2018, is available from Patuxent Music as a 4-CD set and for digital download. 

Mindte provided this audio clip Old Time Camp Meeting that we can share. 

The full track listing is as follows …. 

Disc 1

New York, New York (for WGST) December 18, 1947: Bill and Earl Bolick with Joe Tyson 

  • Theme (Are You from Dixie?
  • Precious Memories
  • Dust on the Bible
  • Songbook pitch
  • Turn Your Radio On
  • Only One Step More
  • Theme (Are You from Dixie?

WGST, Atlanta, Georgia, October 18, 1947: Bill and Earl Bolick with Sam “Curly” Parker

  • Theme (Are You from Dixie?
  • Jeep commercial
  • I’ll Meet You in the Morning
  • Short Life of Trouble
  • Jeep commercial and music bed (Are You from Dixie?
  • Uncle Josh goes rabbit hunting
  • Just One Way to the Pearly Gate
  • Mississippi Sawyer
  • Jeep commercial
  • Theme (Are You from Dixie?

WPTF, Raleigh, North Carolina, 1941: Bill and Earl Bolick with Sam “Curly” Parker

  • Theme (Are You from Dixie?
  • Black Mountain Blues
  • The Hills of Roane County
  • A Beautiful Life
  • Uncle Josh proves his mental ability
  • Worried Mind
  • Skip to My Lou

WGST, Atlanta, Georgia, December 26, 1946: Bill and Earl Bolick with Sam “Curly” Parker

  • Theme (Are You from Dixie?
  • Are You Building on the Rock?
  • Speak to Me Little Darling
  • Uncle Josh at Christmas / How Beautiful Heaven Must Be
  • Two Little Rosebuds
  • Down Home Rag
  • Theme (Are You from Dixie?

Disc 2

Excerpts from various live broadcasts: Bill and Earl Bolick with Sam “Curly” Parker

WGST, Atlanta, Georgia, 1946-1947:

  • An Empty Mansion
  • I’m Going Home This Evening
  • Uncle Josh wants to sing Part 1
  • They’re All Going Home but One
  • Where Shall I Be? 
  • Uncle Josh wants to sing Part 2
  • Only Let Me Walk with Thee
  • Get Along Home Cindy
  • Uncle Josh wants to sing Part 3
  • No Place to Pillow My Head
  • Getting Ready to Leave This World
  • I’m Just Here to Get My Baby Out of Jail
  • Take Up Thy Cross
  • Uncle Josh wants to sing Part 4
  • Sourwood Mountain
  • Great Granddad
  • Uncle Josh wants to sing Part 5
  • There’s No Other Love for Me
  • Uncle Josh and the red suspenders
  • If I Could Hear My Mother Pray Again
  • Sweet Allalee
  • Midnight on the Stormy Deep
  • Ragtime Annie
  • Lorena
  • Crying Holy unto the Lord
  • Uncle Josh and the Halloween party / You Give Me Your Love and I’ll Give You Mine
  • The Blood of Jesus
  • Uncle Josh figures his income tax
  • There’s Been a Change
  • Bring Back My Blue-Eyed Boy to Me
  • Sally Goodin

WNAO, Raleigh, North Carolina, 1949:

  • Old Time Camp Meeting
  • Uncle Josh and the Big Possum / The Sinking of the Titanic

Place and date unknown:

  • Goin’ to Georgia (Leslie Keith banjo and lead vocal) 

Disc 3

WCYB, Bristol, Virginia, 1949: Bill and Earl Bolick with Sam “Curly” Parker (unless otherwise noted) 

  • Amazing Grace
  • You Branded Your Name on My Heart
  • The Sweetest Gift, a Mother’s Smile
  • Old Time Camp Meeting
  • Uncle Josh goes fishing / Chapel in the Hills
  • Listen to the Mockingbird
  • I’ll Be No Stranger There
  • What Does the Deep Sea Say? 
  • The Girl I Left Behind Me
  • I’m Going to Write to Heaven for I Know My Daddy’s There
  • One Cold Winter’s Eve
  • Roll On Buddy
  • This Train
  • The B-I-B-L-E
  • Just a Little Talk with Jesus
  • I Wish I Had Never Seen Sunshine
  • Lonesome Road Blues (Bill and Earl Bolick with Leslie Keith) 
  • Little Joe
  • Oh Those Tombs
  • East Tennessee Blues
  • Alabama
  • Come to the Savior
  • Hop Light Ladies
  • The Royal Telephone

Bill and Earl Bolick with Leslie Keith: 

  • Old Joe Clark
  • Short Life of Trouble
  • Just Tell Them That You Saw Me
  • Take Me Back to Tennessee
  • Whispering Hope
  • This Evening Light
  • Goin’ Around This World Baby Mine 

Disc 4 

WCYB, Bristol, Virginia, 1949: Bill and Earl Bolick with Sam “Curly” Parker 

  • Golden Slippers 
  • You Can Be a Millionaire with Me 
  • Nine Pound Hammer 
  • If We Never Meet Again 
  • Beautiful. 
  • Kentucky 
  • I Dreamed I Searched Heaven for You 
  • Cumberland Gap 
  • The House Where We were Wed 
  • I’m S-A-V-E-D 
  • Worried Man Blues 
  • The Last Mile of the Way 
  • Two Little Rosebuds 
  • I’m Troubled, I’m Troubled 
  • Rubber Dolly 
  • We Parted by the Riverside 
  • Uncle Josh and the big fish / The ABC Song 
  • Uncle Josh threatens to quit / Unloved and Unclaimed 
  • Sweetest Mother 
  • Kneel at the Cross 
  • She’s Somebody’s Darling Once More 
  • Since the Angels Took My Mother Far Away 

WGST, Atlanta, Georgia, November 20, 1939: Bill and Earl Bolick with Red Hicks 

  • Introduction (John Fulton) 
  • Theme (Are You from Dixie?
  • Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone? 
  • Kickin’ Mule 
  • I Told the Stars About You 
  • Fisher’s Hornpipe 
  • I Need the Prayers of Those I Love 
  • Ida Red 
  • Roll On Buddy 
  • 32. Theme (Are You from Dixie?

Some of these recordings, principally from the period at WGST, Atlanta, 1946-1947 and that at WCYB, Bristol in 1949, were released previously by Copper Creek Records and on other labels.

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About the Author

Richard Thompson

Richard F. Thompson is a long-standing free-lance writer specialising in bluegrass music topics. A two-time Editor of British Bluegrass News, he has been seriously interested in bluegrass music since about 1970. As well as contributing to that magazine, he has, in the past 30 plus years, had articles published by Country Music World, International Country Music News, Country Music People, Bluegrass Unlimited, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass music journal) and Bluegrass Europe. He wrote the annotated series I'm On My Way Back To Old Kentucky, a daily memorial to Bill Monroe that culminated with an acknowledgement of what would have been his 100th birthday, on September 13, 2011.