The Blue Sky Boys – A book preview

In among the artists of the 1940s who performed in the string band, honky-tonk, western swing and bluegrass music styles, were brothers – more often than not – who sang in the duet style, accompanied by their own guitar and mandolin accompaniment. 

One of those male duets were North Carolina brothers Bill (1917-2008) and Earl (1919-1998) Bolick, the inimitable Blue Sky Boys. They are the subjects of a new book by musicologist, historian and radio host Dick Spottswood. 

The book’s origins are a family initiative to satisfy a desire that the brothers’ music and lives be documented. Spottswood took on the project. In the preface he says, “In 2010 I learned from Gary Reid that the Bolick family wanted to have a book written about the Blue Sky Boys. I volunteered, thinking the project would be a conventional third-person narrative, piecing together as much who, what, where, and when as I could gather.” 

Spottswood was to be pleasingly surprised. He continues. “…. I soon learned that over the years, Bill Bolick provided numerous spoken interviews and written accounts of his music, life, and career and he was unsparing in his appraisals of all aspects of the Blue Sky Boys story and the country music world of the 1930s and 1940s.”

The short narrative – just 122 pages – takes maximum advantage of these eloquent and detailed records as Spottswood weaves those multiple narratives into a single account that presents much of the Blue Sky Boys’ story according to Bill Bolick. 

The balance of this (what is officially designated) 256-page book, are two appendices, one – 139 pages long – an annotated listing of the Blue Sky Boys’ songs; the other –  a 40-page discography; and a near 4-page chronology. The index is all-embracing, even covering the sources and references. 

The Blue Sky Boys was published on March 15, 2018, by the University Press of Mississippi in its American Made Music Series.    

It is available from the publisher and book-sellers on the high street, in malls, and on-line.  

University Press of Mississippi
256 pages (approx.), 6 x 9 inches, 71 black and white illustrations
ISBN-13: 978-1496816412, Paper $30.00
ISBN-10: 978-1496816405, Printed case-binding $90.00

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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.