North Carolina Folk Heritage Award recipients Jerry and Ray Wilson performed as a gospel duet for decades. Ray sang lead and his brother Jerry sang tenor, and together their vocal style reflected the heyday of great brother duets like the Delmore Brothers and fellow Carolinians the Blue Sky Boys in the 1930s and 1940s.
The Wilsons were sons of a minister, and Ray hosted a devotional program, “Words of Life,” on WKRK in Murphy. Most of their repertoire consisted of old gospel hymns and sacred country songs. Some of their songs, however, were original compositions. While they were popular performers at many folk festivals and venues, the majority of the Wilsons’ public music-making was in the service of their faith and their community. They sang at benefits for neighbors in need, and at prayer meetings and revivals.
The Wilson Brothers recorded four CDs, one LP, and more than a dozen cassettes, and were guests on live radio programs in North Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia. They gave performances at the John C. Campbell Folk School, at Western Carolina University’s Mountain Heritage Center, and at festivals and other venues up and down the east coast, and beyond.
Jerry Wilson passed away on April 19, 2016 at the age of 78.