Virginia fiddler Boyd Wilbert “Hick” Edmonds died on June 24th at Smyth County Community Hospital in Marion, Virginia. He was preceded in death by his parents, Charles and Alice Edmonds, and four brothers. He is survived by his wife, Sue Atkins Edmonds of Atkins, Virginia; two step-sons, John Atkins and Randy Atkins, both of Atkins, Virginia; three step-daughters, Jeffie Campbell and husband Bill of Marion, Virginia, Cindy Sneed and husband John of Spring, Texas, and Anne Reedy and husband Jack of Houston, Texas; one sister-in-law, Juanita Edmonds, of Christiansburg, Virginia; three step-grandchildren and three step-great-grandchildren. Hick was laid to rest at Chatham Hill Cemetery in Chatham Hill, Virginia. The cemetery is secluded and lies on a small knoll overlooking Rich Valley, offering peaceful, pastoral views of the surrounding countryside.
Born in 1913, Hick lived nearly his entire life in the community of Lick Creek in Smyth County. During World War II he was drafted into the Army and became a medic with the 29th Infantry Division. He served in the invasion of Normandy and continued fighting until the end of the European Campaign, then returned home to Lick Creek where he resumed working the family farm. For much of his life Hick lived as a bachelor and farmed land owned by his family. During his time as a farmer he produced wheat, barley, corn, and tobacco, ran a dairy operation, and operated a sawmill at his home to meet local building demands. He continued to farm and run the sawmill until his retirement sometime in the 1970s. In 1977 he married Sue Taylor Atkins, who is a guitarist, singer, and storyteller.
Hick was best known for his old-time fiddling. He began playing in his late teen years and was almost entirely influenced by notable fiddler Beverly Thomson and his two older brothers, all of whom lived on a farm less than one mile from Hick. He was also influenced by early country recordings, his favorites being those of Fiddling John Carson. Hick was later influenced by some bluegrass and modern country artists, but throughout his fiddling career he maintained a pure old-time noting and bowing style. His style was truly old-sounding, rhythmic, and lively, and he had many unique variations of standard tunes that were wonderful, crafted through time by his subsistence upbringing and long agrarian life with few influences from outside his community. Hick was a tenacious fiddler too, being able to saw out tunes up until a year before his death.
Hick has received several awards for his fiddle playing , the most notable of these being in 1998 when he won the second place in the Senior and fourth in the Overall Old-Time Fiddle categories at the Appalachian Stringband Festival in Clifftop, West Virginia. Hick’s fiddle playing was almost always accompanied by his wife Sue on guitar, and their duet playing has become much admired around Smyth County. More recently they gained the appreciation of old-time music listeners far and wide with the release of their CD Whoopee Liza Jane in 2003.
Hick was one of the last surviving “old-timers” in Virginia and the Southern Appalachian region. Fortunately, quite a few of the younger musicians have been lucky enough to experience Hick’s fiddling and life, perhaps most notably within just the last few years when all but a few of the old-timers have passed on, living only in our memories, imagination, and music. We are delighted that Hick’s fiddling will be carried forth, and are grateful to have befriended and learned from this very kind man. The chance will not come again, and will we miss him greatly!