Lloyd Church grew up in a family known for bluegrass music, but he played his self-taught piano style, singing gospel and country music, and playing a unique guitar style for more than fifty years. Lloyd performed country music with Drake Walsh, Bill Williams, and Clay Wilson at venues in and around Wilkes County.
Lloyd’s father was a banjo and fiddle player who played in an old-time, traditional mountain style. Three of his older brothers played, recorded, and performed as the Church Brothers and Blue Ridge Ramblers, a popular bluegrass band in Wilkes County and the surrounding region in the 1940s and ’50s. At home, his sister played the family’s upright piano.
When Lloyd was in high school, an accident left him with a broken jaw. While he was recuperating at home, he taught himself to play the piano. “I played totally by ear,” he said. Though his brothers were busy playing bluegrass, Lloyd was interested in country music.”I’ve got a left hand kind of like Jerry Lee Lewis and a right hand kind of like Floyd Cramer,” he said. Shortly after high school, he entered military service. He continued to play, but became more heavily involved when he got out of the military in 1963, staying involved in music for the remainder of his life.
Lloyd played with Jimmy Church and the Gems at various locations around the area, including Shadracks restaurant in Boone, the Carolina Opry in Lenoir, and regional Moose clubs. He made one country recording with “If You’re Afraid to Tell Him, I Will” on one side and a piano boogie on the flip side. Later, Lloyd got together with a gospel trio, and the group played in area churches. In the 1970s, the gospel trio recorded an album, and they reunited after a 30-year hiatus to make a second recording.
In addition to playing piano, Lloyd was also adept on the guitar. He had a unique style that mimicked finger-picking, using a flat pick on the bass strings and picking melodies with his middle, ring, and pinky fingers. “I kindly learned that on my own,” he said.