Updated: Apr 23
Amy Orlomoski and the Neon Valley Boys to be inducted
WEST GREENWICH, RI (April 2, 2023) – Influential members of the southern New England bluegrass community will be inducted into the Rhode Island Bluegrass Alliance (RIBA) Hall of Fame on Sunday, April 30th in a ceremony at the Elks Lodge in West Greenwich, RI. Radio host Amy Orlomoski and the Neon Valley Boys band were selected as the 2023 inductees for their lifetime achievements.
For the first time, RIBA will also honor five Bluegrass Pioneers: Gertrude Hall, Randy Hawkins, Al Hawkes, and the Lilly Brothers. This new designation recognizes performing artists, bands, and industry professionals who were actively involved in bluegrass music at least 40 years ago.
“Southern New England is home to a vibrant bluegrass community, yet many people are unaware that local musicians and people in the music business, like Amy and the members of the Neon Valley Boys, as well our new Bluegrass Pioneers, have had an impact on bluegrass music both locally and nationally,” said RIBA President Sal Sauco.
Sauco noted that RIBA is celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2023. “RIBA was formed in 2013 and three years later, we started the RIBA Hall of Fame to honor people who have made significant contributions to bluegrass in the region,” said Sauco.
The 2023 RIBA Hall of Fame will be held Sunday, April 30th, 4:00 pm at the Elks Lodge #2285, 42 Nooseneck Hill Rd, West Greenwich, RI 02817. Hors d'oeuvres, dessert and coffee will be served. A cash bar will be available. Celebratory jamming will follow the induction of the honorees.
Tickets are $20 for RIBA members and $25 for non-members. Tickets for children 15 years old or younger are $10. Tickets may be purchased online at www.ribluegrass.org or at the door.
About the 2023 inductees:
Amy Orlomoski celebrates her 34th year as a bluegrass broadcaster this year. She has hosted the Bluegrass Café at WHUS, the University of Connecticut at Storrs radio station, for the past 24 years and can be heard on Sundays from 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm.
After taking a broadcasting class at Eastern Connecticut State University, Amy was hooked on the equipment and activities of a broadcaster, so she took to the microphone whenever she had the opportunity. During and after college, Amy worked at the campus radio station, WECS-FM, and hosted a show called “Simply Bluegrass,” which lasted for eight years. She also worked at country music station WCTY-FM in Norwich, Connecticut, as a technician and DJ.
Amy’s brother Dave played bluegrass music in various bands. Although Amy didn’t play an instrument herself, she was completely taken by the sound of the music and made it her mission to spread bluegrass wherever and however she could.
The Neon Valley Boys
The Neon Valley Boys came together in April 1979 when Jeff Horton asked Mike Bresler if he knew of any bands looking for a bass player. Mike had a booked gig for a bluegrass band at The Met Café but had no band yet. He put together a band that consisted of Mike Bresler on mandolin, Jeff Horton on bass, Karl Dennis on fiddle, Ed Stern on banjo and Ray “Wyatt” Lema on guitar. The guys all knew each other from playing in other bands and at events.
After six months, Wyatt left the band and Paul Mellyn was asked to join as guitar player and lead singer. This was the beginning of a lengthy run during which the band performed at numerous venues, festivals and events with enthusiastic audience response.
Mike Bresler left the band in 1980 and was replaced by Tom McLaughlin on mandolin. Karl left a year later and the band continued as a quartet.
In 1983, the Neon Valley Boys released an LP that received favorable reviews. A re-release of the album on CD in 1999 resulted in four annual reunion concerts at the Blackstone River Theater in Cumberland, RI.
Following a long break, the band returned to the Blackstone River Theater and played an August 2022 show at Nick-a-Nee’s in Providence, RI that was reportedly the largest turnout for that venue. The band continues as a casual group of like-minded musicians.
About the 2023 Bluegrass Pioneers
The Lilly Brothers, Bea Lilly (born Michael Burt Lilly) and brother Everett Lilly, were bluegrass musicians born in Clear Creek, West Virginia. The Lilly Brothers moved to Boston and formed a group called the "Confederate Mountaineers" who consisted of the brothers on guitar and mandolin, Tex Logan on fiddle, and Don Stover on banjo. They have been credited with bringing bluegrass to New England and with influencing such future bluegrass artists as Peter Rowan, Joe Val and Bill Keith, among others.
Al Hawkes was born in Providence, Rhode Island but moved to his family's homestead in Maine in 1941 when he was 10. His father introduced him to bluegrass music by installing a radio with a long antenna that could pick up music from southern and midwestern radio stations. When he was 13, Hawkes's mother bought him a guitar and his father later gave him a Gibson A4 mandolin. Hawkes formed his first band (Al Hawkes Hillbillies) in high school. In the 1940s Hawkes performed as half of the duo Allerton & Alton, the first interracial duo to play bluegrass. They performed live and on radio shows until 1951, despite the segregated climate of the time.
Randy Hawkins (born Irving Richards in Rhode Island) began his love of music early in life when he learned to play the guitar and later formed a country music group, The Country Nighthawks. He got hooked on bluegrass music when he met Fred Pike from Connecticut, a guitar and five-string banjo player. He and Fred formed a bluegrass band called The Bluegrass Nighthawks. During this time, Randy got a job as a DJ at a Rhode Island radio station where he spun bluegrass music to a growing audience of listeners. Randy was the first bluegrass DJ in Rhode Island.
Gertrude Hall has been involved in bluegrass music since the 1960s. She and her husband Bill Hall attended the very first multi-day bluegrass festival, held in Fincastle Virginia on Labor Day weekend 1965. For over 50 years, Gert opened her Cumberland and Scituate, Rhode Island homes weekly to bluegrass music jams and Bill’s band practices. In the 1970s, Gert wrote a successful grant application for the first New England bluegrass band to be considered for National Arts Council funding. She advised and influenced many bands, including Joe Val and the New England Boys, on how the bands should dress and how audiences received their live performances. Today, Gert is still sought after for musical critiques.
The Rhode Island Bluegrass Alliance's mission is to promote the appreciation of bluegrass music and serve as a resource to fans, students, teachers, musicians and venues in Rhode Island and the surrounding area. In addition to the RIBA Bluegrass Hall of Fame, the organization also sponsors youth and adult musical education programs and serves as a resource to venues and musicians.