Banjo picker Luin Wilford Lambert, Jr., was born in 1926, in the Summers community of Wilkes County. His father, L.W., and mother, Grace Luella Gregory Lambert, both played banjo, and in 1938 they formed a family band called the Carolina Neighbors. With L.W. Sr. on the banjo, L.W. Jr. on the guitar, and his sister LaVaughn on the mandolin, the group played at local social events.
In his late teens, L.W. heard Earl Scruggs play banjo on a radio broadcast, and Scruggs’ style became the chief influence on his own banjo playing. In 1947, L.W. revived the Carolina Neighbors with his sister LaVaughn on guitar, her husband Harold Tomlin on mandolin, Zeb Speece on guitar, and Pee Wee Yokeley on fiddle. The group performed on a Saturday morning show on WKBC Radio in North Wilkesboro, joined the cast of Dwight Barker’s WSIC Saturday Nite Jamboree in Statesville, and played a live broadcast show on WPAQ in Mount Airy. The Carolina Neighbors made their first recording around 1952 for the Blue Ridge label.
L.W. played with numerous musicians over the years including Curly Kilby, Cub McGee, Elmer Bowers, and Ralph Pennington, formerly with the Stanley Brothers. Later, L.W. performed with Johnny Compton at WPAW and did a few shows with Charlie Monroe. Around 1955 the Murphy brothers—Dewey, Fred, and John—reorganized their band the Blue River Boys and added Lambert on the banjo. This ensemble stayed together for about six years. L.W. played banjo with Jim & Jesse McReynolds and the Virginia Boys, Don Reno, Benny Martin, and with Carl Davis as back up for Bill Anderson when Anderson was starting his music career. After several years of freelancing and doing radio and television work, Lambert joined the Border Mountain Boys in 1968 with fiddler Tommy Malbouef, guitarist Cullen Galyean, bassist Buck Arrington, and mandolinist Jim Holder. The group recorded on the Homestead label just before illness forced Lambert to leave the band in 1970.
In 1972 L.W. Lambert reorganized the Blue River Boys with his cousin Herb Lambert on mandolin, Ray Cline on lead guitar, Tommy Malboeuf on fiddle, Joe Greene on bass and Elbert Arrington on guitar. The rejuvenated band won thirty-one of thirty-four fiddler’s conventions it entered that year and took home more than $15,800 in prize money. Over the years the lineup of the Blue River Boys included bassist Danny Campbell, guitarists Harold Murphy and Herb Green, and fiddlers Terry Baucom, Tim Smith, Roger Ledford, and Robin Warren. On May 17, 1980, L.W. Lambert and the Blue River Boys played at the Lincoln Center in New York City sharing the bill with Emmylou Harris, Norman Blake and the Whites. The group eventually disbanded around 1985.
L.W. recorded two albums with Art Wooten and one with Jim Shumate. The recording of “The Battle of Korea” on the Carolina Neighbors recording was entered into the Library of Congress for the Bi-Centennial. L.W. Lambert lived on a 160-acre farm in Olin, North Carolina and remained active in music in his later years.
L.W. Lambert passed away on January 23rd, 2014 at the age of eighty-seven.