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Local music legend loses cancer battle

Photo by Corinne Nicholson

Photo by Corinne Nicholson

SUWANEE -- A local legend who spent his Saturday nights playing bluegrass music for standing-room only crowds in a small Suwanee venue named for his family has died.

Sugar Hill resident Roger Everett, 61, died Friday after years spent battling cancer. The funeral for the last surviving member of the original Everett Brothers Band that gave way to the Everett Brothers Music Barn was held Monday.

He is survived by Sandra Rolin Everett, his wife of 42 years, and a brother, George Everett of Buford.

"He loved his family life and then his second love was music," said Diane Everett Dunaway, his niece.

Roger Everett was preceded in death by brothers Randall, who died three years ago, and Leroy Everett, who died in 1971 just after the barn in Suwanee was first built.

Saturday's show was canceled in light of Roger Everett's passing but Dunaway, daughter of the late Leroy Everett, said her uncle George Everett plans to step in to help the barn stay open.

"As long as the people still come and support it we're going to try to keep it running," she said. "It's such a longtime tradition, it would be a shame for us to not do it and it's touched so many lives. Musicians have grown up here picking from the time they were little boys to grown men now."

The Everett brothers, who were inducted into the Georgia Country Music Hall of Fame in 2002, started playing together in 1965 after their brother, Jerry, a Gwinnett County police officer, was killed in the line of duty.

"We just kept up really learning how to play to entertain our mom and dad and ourselves, too," Roger said in February during an interview on the venue's 40th anniversary. "To keep our mind on something else."

The brothers -- Roger on the banjo, Leroy on the bass fiddle and Randall on guitar singing lead vocals -- began playing for small groups in a large room that was added on to the back of their family's house.

"It got too small real quick and that's when we decided to build the barn," Roger said.

The barn opened in the Everetts' backyard in 1970, where the Everett Brothers Band played every Saturday night. Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver was the first professional group to play there in the late '70s or early '80s. That band has been followed by The Osborne Brothers, Larry Sparks, The Grascals and other famous bluegrass groups throughout the years. Countless musicians have graced the stage at Everett's, but none have left such a lasting legacy as the Everett brothers themselves.

A humble Roger Everett hadn't really considered his impact in the 40 years the barn had been in operation.

"I haven't given it really much thought," he said in February. "It's just really something that came about. But it makes you feel pretty proud that you had a hand in getting so many people interested in this type of music.

"What makes me proud as much as anything," Roger said, "is we've always run the place just like we are now, operating off donations. We just barely take in enough in to pay for the operation of it and we try to provide a good, clean atmosphere where people can bring their wife and kids."