The close knit community of bluegrass lovers in southwestern Virginia are devastated today after learning that Timmy Mills died on Sunday after a valiant battle with cancer. He was 52 years of age when he passed.
Timmy was among the most visible bluegrass pickers at events from Roanoke west, and into east Tennessee. Living in the town of Pilot, VA, he was a staple at the Old Fiddlers Convention in Galax every year, and was always among the crew pickin’ outside the Floyd Country Store on Friday nights. You would often see his name in the winner’s list at Galax.
Though he didn’t work with a touring group, Timmy was involved with many bands in the region. He was also active in bringing national groups to perform in the small mountain communities in the area. There was no one he wouldn’t or couldn’t play his banjo with, and as he had befriended most of the top tier musicians in bluegrass, he often sat in or filled in on their shows nearby.
Mills was a top booster of bluegrass music, and was known for his encouragement of younger artists just learning to play, and those earning their journeyman’s stripes. He taught many people to play the banjo and guitar, and would never say no when called for a jam or a gig.
Everyone in the western part of the state knew him as a fine musician, but he will primarily be remembered for his innate goodness, decency, and warmth towards everyone he met. Timmy would be the first to sign up for a benefit show, and many of his friends returned the favor for him not long ago as his cancer began to drain him of life. Don’t be surprised to see a festival, concert series, or venue christened with his name in the very near future.
Rarely do you learn of someone who is universally loved and regarded the way Timmy Mills has been in his native Virginia. He will be sorely missed for some time to come.
On his primary instrument, Mills was a disciple of J.D. Crowe, and was especially proud of the friendship he developed with Crowe over the years.
No arrangements have yet been announced.
R.I.P., Timmy Mills.