Bonny Beverley passes

Bluegrass fiddler Bonny Beverley passed away yesterday (11/23/23) at his home on Lynchburg, VA. He was 80 years of age.

Born Bonnie Ross Beverley on May 19, 1943 in Amherst, VA, the nickname “Bonny” was how he was most widely known.

His musical career began in the early 1960s performing with local Virginia bands, winning fiddling awards from the Old Fiddlers Convention in Galax and the Old Dominion Barn Dance in Richmond. When Red Smily played the first three-day bluegrass festival in Fincastle in 1965, Beverley was on fiddle.

Bonny was often on fiddle while Reno & Smiley were regulars on WDBJ in Roanoke on the Top O’ The Morning Show from 1956 until the group disbanded in 1964. He returned to work with Don on guitar when Bill Harrell was in an accident in the mid ’70s, switching to fiddle when Buck Ryan died in 1982, and remaining with Reno until the banjo pioneer himself passed in 1984.

Working as a painting contractor throughout his life, Bonny filled in on fiddle for a good many bluegrass and country artists when his schedule allowed. This included time with Mac Wiseman, Lester Flatt, Alvin Breeden, Charles Frazier & the Virginia Ramblers, Larry Hall, the Carter Family, and the Lewis Family. He played on an early project for Larry Stephenson, pre Bluegrass Cardinals, worked for a time for country legend Faron Young, and can be heard on numerous cuts by Jim Eanes, including his final album with Tony Rice.

Beverley’s son, Ross, tells us that even when his father’s day job kept him from playing full time, he followed bluegrass music closely and never lost his love for it, or the many friends he had made working on the road.

“First and foremost, his greatest friend in the music business was Don Reno. He stated that his time with Don was what he would cherish forever, because he was a true gentleman. Dad had several people he looked up to in the industry on fiddle, which all in part, made his style. These would include Dale Potter, Tommy Jackson – one of whose fiddles he owned – Benny Martin, Bobby Hicks, and who he felt was the greatest bluegrass fiddler ever, and a very close friend, the late Kenny Baker.

He and Baker would often sit around for hours and just fiddle on a bank near a river, in a hotel, or in the field of a festival. In his later years, his declining health kept him from the road and he only played local stuff around the Lynchburg, VA area, but he continued to love and listen to the music, and he wanted to make sure people knew of an up-and-coming star in the music.

He spent many hours listening to this person’s playing, and had great joy hearing Aynsley Porchak of the Tennessee Bluegrass Band. He told me that she is the purest and most traditional fiddler around, and he could tell that she has had the same musical influencers as he did. He said he only wished she could have met all of them as he did.”

Ross says that the stories his dad has told him were worthy of putting in a book.

“He would talk about his annual breakfast ritual with Bill and Birch Monroe at Bean Blossom before the break of dawn, to watching Grandpa Jones smoke the transmission out of an old Pontiac, to all the stories traveling on the road with Don Reno.”

Beverly took great pride in the fact that his son Ross, and grandson Chris, were both musically inclined. Ross says that one of his father’s greatest thrills was having his grandson, Chris, play twin fiddle with him on a festival in Virginia a few years ago.

Bonny was featured in a 1990 Top O’ The Morning reunion show in 1990, led by Ronnie Reno and original host Irv Sharp, featuring a number of regulars like Mack Magaha, John Palmer, Billy Edwards, David Deese, Gene Burroughs, and Harry Snyder.

Graveside funeral services will be conducted on Tuesday, November 28, at Altavista Memorial Park in Altavista, VA. The family will receive friends from 9:30-10:30 a.m. on Tuesday morning at Finch & Finch Funeral and Cremation Service in Altavista.

A Celebration of Life will be held on Monday, November 27, at the Rustburg Ruritan Club from 5:00-8:00 p.m. in Rustburg, VA. Ross has told us that anyone who has stories they would like to share about Bonny, but will not be able to attend the celebration, is asked to post them as comments here, or send them to him by email.

R.I.P., Bonny Beverley.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.