Bill Yates was born April 30, 1936 in Big Rock, VA. His family and him would sing songs while working around there farm, and would regularly gather around the radio to listen to the Grand Ole Opry . Bill learned to play by the bass by ear while listening to records. Bill from a young age was inspired to partake in Bluegrass music by Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs, Bill Monroe, Jimmy Martin, the Stanley Brothers and Reno & Smiley. Just a short while after Bill learned to play the bass, Bill and his brother Wayne , formed a band called “The Yates Brothers & the Clinch Mountain Ramblers”. “The Clinch Mountain Ramblers” as they were soon called came to be after Red Allen joined the band. Bill relocated to Nashville and worked with many Bluegrass greats including Jimmy Martin and Bill Monroe. In 1969 Bill moved to Northern Virginia area and joined The Country Gentlemen. After a few years Bill became a full time member of The Country Gentlemen along with Charlie Waller, Doyle Lawson and Bill Emerson.
For twenty plus years Bill worked alongside Charlie Waller in The Country Gentlemen. They achieved many awards, accolades, as well as making many friends along the way before finally retiring in 1989. Bill was commonly known as the “Ambassador of Bluegrass Music” to many; he remained active within the Bluegrass community for years. In 2005 Bill assembled some musicians and formed the “Bill Yates & the Country Gentlemen Tribute Band. He formed this band in tribute to the band he had put so much of his musical-soul into; the band received acceptance throughout the Bluegrass community. Bill made his traveling RV his home, but would occasionally visit relatives in Spotsylvania, VA.
I personally knew Bill, and I have to say what a great spirited and true gentleman he was. He sat two rows behind us at the Berryville Bluegrass Series that my father and I attend in Berryville, VA. He was almost always recognized by Frank Jurney as well as by many of the bands that have played in Berryville. Every time we saw Bill he would remember our names and greet us with a big smile. Bill stopped by Camping World in Winchester, VA on occasion to have work done to his RV and for a brief period my father would work on his RV and always said how nice and how genuine a man Bill was; he still talks about the many conversations they had.
Bill is greatly missed by the Bluegrass community as well as by the folks that called the Northern Shenandoah Valley of Virginia their home.
Biographical information on Bill Yates was found at http://www.countrygentlementributeband.com/