Mandolinist Vern Williams, 75, of Vern and Ray, passed away on June 6. He was born in Bullfrog Valley in northwestern Arkansas. He learned to play from family members, and bought his first mandolin from the Sears catalogue. Williams met up with Ray Park, who was also from Arkansas, in California in the 1950s. They formed a band in 1960 and played throughout the Bay Area for the next 15 years. When they broke up in the mid-1970s, Vern formed the Vern Williams Band, which recorded the album Bluegrass from the Gold Country on the Rounder label. After the band disbanded in the 1980s, Williams continued to play at festivals. He reunited with Ray for several performances before Ray died in 2002.
Vern was known for his mandolin playing and especially his tenor singing. His last album Vern and Ray with Herb Pedersen: San Francisco 1968 was released in May by Arhoolie Records. It is a live recording from the San Francisco Folk Festival.
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