The reputation of the Easter Brothers as inspired songwriters of gifted material has grown daily, and they have become known as some of the most prolific tunesmith’s in the gospel music profession. Many of their songs were recorded by other groups and have become standards. Among them are “Thank You Lord For Your Blessings On Me,” and “The Darkest Hour,” just a few of the hundreds of songs penned by the three brothers. They have recorded throughout the years for various major record labels, beginning with King Records, a major country label during the 60s, and later progressing to QCA and their own Commandment label. While the bluegrass gospel sound has carried the Easter Brothers throughout the span of their career, they have never confined themselves to just one style of gospel music. Without losing the identity and integrity of their music, the Easter Brothers have broadened their sound to include southern and country gospel. All throughout their career, they have appeared on a variety of different broadcast television events. The PTL Club, Huff Cook, Leonard Repass, Camp Meetin’ USA, Sing Out America, Great American Gospel, Bluegrass Road, and Top of the Morning are just a few national and international television shows the Easter Brothers have been a part of.
Smithsonian Folkways is the non-profit record label of the United States. Its mission is to document and celebrate traditional culture throughout the world. It began as Folkways Records in 1948 and was founded by Moses Asch and Marian Distler. The Asch estate sold the label to the Smithsonian Institution in 1987, negotiated by Ralph Rinzler, an important documenter of Appalachian music. It was re-born again the following year as Smithsonian Folkways to carry on the Asch legacy. One of the key missions of the label continues to be to provide deep information about the artists and region in the liner notes. Smithsonian Folkways has had a long history of releasing titles of Appalachian music beginning with Hobart Smith and Texas Gladden during the Asch Records period. The label was the prime destination for folklorists looking to publish their recordings from the region. During the era of the great folk song revival musician/folklorists like Mike Seeger, John Cohen, Sandy Paton and Ralph Rinzler brought their work to the public through Folkways. They published extensive liner notes discussing the history of the songs and music. Others Asch published were Hazel and Alice and the Country Gentlemen. The music of the Appalachian Region has always been a central part of what Smithsonian Folkways does. As it moves on into time, projects by Anna and Elizabeth, Rhiannon Giddens and Dom Flemons, formerly of the Carolina Chocolate Drops will continue the legacy.
Bill moved to Wilkes County from Florida in 1976, and he immersed himself in the mountain music of the region. Bill’s music endeavors started when his wife bought him an old guitar shortly after they were married in 1983. He learned to play rhythm guitar and met guitarist Steve Kilby at American Drew where they both worked. Bill had been playing the “doghouse” bass some too. His first on-stage gig was playing bass with Ramona Church and her band at Fiddlers Grove in Union Grove, NC. Bill continued his association with Steve Kilby and did his first studio recording with Steve at Heritage Records in Galax, VA. The name of this recording was “Sunday Night” and all the songs were originals written by Steve. Bill was a founding member of Steve Kilby’s “Sunday Night Band” along with John Akin and Tim Lewis. He stayed with this band, later renamed “Kingsberry Run”, for about five years. While with Steve’s band he won numerous ribbons and trophies at fiddlers’ conventions throughout North Carolina and Virginia.
Around 1994, Bill met Drake Walsh and Floyd Williams. They had a band called “Southland’ and Floyd asked Bill if he would be interested in playing bass with them because their bass player, Marshal Craven was leaving the band. He stayed with this band until 2003. In 2001 Bill and Drake were approached by Jerry Lankford, editor of The Record newspaper, and asked if they would be interested in playing with a band that was being formed to play live music for a play written by Karen Wheeling Reynolds called “Tom Dooley, A Wilkes County Legend”. The play was being put on annually by the Wilkes Playmakers at Benton Hall in North Wilkesboro. Bill agreed to join the band which also included Jerry Lankford, Drake Walsh, Herb Key and Nicole Vidrine. A name was needed for the band so Her Key came up with the name “Elkville String Band” due to the fact that Tom “Dooley” Dula was born in Elkville, a small town in Wilkes County, now called Ferguson. The band played for four seasons of the Tom Dooley play and the group recorded four CDs of the music for the play. After Jerry Lankford and Nicole Vidrine could no longer play with the band, Jeff Michael stepped in and played with the band for several years. At that time “The Elkville String Band” was made up of Herb Key, Drake Walsh, Jeff Michael and Bill Williams. After Drake passed away in 2010, Jim Lloyd started playing banjo and Trevor McKenzie started playing fiddle in the band.
Bill has also played and recorded with “The Lloyd Church Band” and several other groups from this area. He is still a member of “The Elkville String Band” along with Herb Key, Jim Lloyd and Trevor McKenzie but is currently not active with the band right now due to his wife having a stroke. He is her primary caregiver but hopes to be able to play music again in the near future.