Mike Lilly passes

Mike Lilly, celebrated banjo player and singer from Ohio, died yesterday (2/12) in hospice care after going into renal failure a few days ago. He was 70 years of age.

Mike had been a banjo picker since he was just a child. At age 11, he was a featured guest on the Ted Mack Amateur Hour, and was invited to play on the Grand Ole Opry when he was 13. While still in high school he joined The Powell Brothers, before being hired to play with Larry Sparks shortly after Larry left Ralph Stanley to form his own group. 

While with Sparks he performed alongside mandolinist Wendy Miller, who was to become Lilly’s partner for several years after the two of them left The Lonesome Ramblers. As Mike Lilly & Wendy Miller they recorded several albums and toured extensively in the US and Canada. He also worked with Harley Allen for a time.

In later life Mike formed his own group where he was featured on banjo and vocals.

Lately he has been quite ill, suffering from both leukemia and cirrhosis of the liver, and receiving dialysis up until quite recently when he was transferred to hospice.

His son, Norm, has been managing his father’s Facebook page and a GoFundMe page which is raising money for funeral expenses. He reports that Mike passed peacefully, and had greatly enjoyed this past few days when friends had stopped by to visit, or play music for him.

Funeral arrangements have not been announced, but Norm will post them on Facebook and GoFundMe when they are finalized.

Mike will be remembered not only as a powerful and innovative player and a passionate singer, but as a good friend who loved to laugh and share his many stories. Many condolences to his friends and his family, who already miss him terribly.

R.I.P., Mike Lilly.

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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.