Harold Killian passes

Mandolinist Harold Killian, 95, of Catawba, NC, passed away on January 12, 2024. Along with his brother, Tommy Killian, they formed the group The Catawba River Boys and performed together for many years.

Harold always greatly enjoyed playing and singing bluegrass music. His pride and joy in life was entertaining people with his music, often saying, “I will be picking as long as I’m kicking.” Harold played his retirement show at Murray’s Mill on September 20, 2020, at the age of 91.

In 1972, the Catawba River Boys recorded a 45 rpm featuring two of Killian’s originals: a vocal, Homewrecker and Heartbreaker and an instrumental, Carolina Hoedown. In addition to the Killian brothers, CE Ward picked banjo, WC Hester played guitar, and Luther Souther played bass.

Former North Carolina Bluegrass Association president, Vivian Pennington Hopkins, shared…

“One of my dad’s closest friends passed away on Friday. I have the mandolin that my dad (Ralph Pennington) built for him years ago. After Harold slowed down due to his health and wasn’t playing much anymore, he wanted to be sure to know that his mandolin would be in good hands, and he wanted me to have it. It’s one of my treasured possessions.

Harold Killian was a dear precious family friend. My heartfelt condolences go out to the Killian family. Rest in Peace, my friend.”

Lester Deaton, a well-known North Carolina bluegrasser, noted…

“One of the finest gentlemen I ever knew, and a good musician as well. He loved his music.

Harold always put his heart and soul into his love of bluegrass music. I first met him in the mid ’60s. If you got into a jam with him, he would be the last man standing, still ready to go some more. You couldn’t wear him out.”

“Harold was first generation bluegrass and loved telling the stories about the masters of bluegrass,” added North Carolina mandolinist and instrument collector, Tom Isenhour.

A United States Army veteran, Killian served in the Korean War. A service with military honors to celebrate his life will be held on Wednesday, January 17, 2024 at 12:00 p.m. at Olivet Baptist Church in Catawba. Rev. Matt Rummage and Rev. Michael Craver will officiate. Burial will follow in the church cemetery.

The family will receive friends prior to the service from 10:00 to 11:45 a.m. at Olivet Baptist Church. Bluegrass musicians will serve as honorary pallbearers.

Memorials may be made to:

Carolina Caring Sherrills Ford Hospice House
7473 Sherrills Ford Road
Sherrills Ford, NC 28673


Murray’s Mill Historic District
1489 Murrays Mill Road
Catawba, NC 28609

Condolences may be sent to the Killian family via the funeral home online.

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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.