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Nov. 16: “No one in country music has done vocal duets better than the Blue Sky Boys,” wrote the late music journalist David Vinopal. “If your taste runs more to Conway and Loretta, George and Tammy, or Wynonna and Naomi, listen to the effortless, exquisite singing of Bill and Earl Bolick. See where it all started.”

The Bolicks were among the influential brother duos of the 1930s, along with the Monroes, the Delmores and others. As musical tastes evolved, most of those acts reacted by changing with the times. But not the Blue Sky Boys. It’s clear from this 1949 recording that they remained true to the guitar-and-mandolin sound they loved, even as honky-tonk music was beginning to dominate. Within a few years, they would retire from music rather than go electric and beat-heavy. They re-emerged briefly in the 1960s during the folk movement, with a final un-retirement coming in the mid-70s, when they cut an album and played several festivals.

Perhaps that’s when they came to the attention of Linda Ronstadt, who included a great version of “The Sweetest Gift”, aided by Emmylou Harris and the Seldom Scene, on her 1975 album Prisoner In Disguise. She introduced me and countless others to this song, proving again the lasting influence of the Blue Sky Boys.

On what would have been Earl Bolick’s 90th birthday, read the Vinopal biography on to learn more about their career.