A Celebration of Life was held Dec. 22 in Cartersville, Ga. for banjo player Edward William "Shorty" Eager. He passed away following an extended illness Dec. 19, 2011 at Cobb Wellstar Hospital in Austell, Ga. He was born Feb. 13, 1941 in Pennsylvania. Eager was a member of bluegrass music legend Jimmy Martin's Sunny Mountain Boys, replacing J.D. Crowe performing alongside International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) Hall of Fame member Paul Williams and Zeb Collins. He appeared with the group on the Wheeling Jamboree.
He said in a 2006 interview that many of his early musical experiences were gained from his siblings but they led him to the now historic country music concert venue in Sunset Park, Pennsylvania. "They had a show every Sunday," he said. "I saw the Osbornes, Reno and Smiley, the Louvin Brothers, Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper, Ola Belle Reed and Alex Campbell — they were the home band. That's been a long time ago now. I remember getting out in the parking lot and picking with Del McCoury and Jack Cooke." That is where he met IBMA Hall of Fame member Jimmy Martin and was invited to join his Sunny Mountain Boys.
He also performed with Grand Ole Opry star Charlie Bailey, Tennessee Bob and the Dixieliners in Kutztown, Penn. on WSAN in Allentown. He led several bands throughout his musical career, one of those - the Log Cabin Boys he took from Pennsylvania to North Carolina where he performed for four years at Teddy Sutton's Old Country Store in Maggie Valley.
He also formed Shorty Eager and the Eager Beavers; and Elaine and Shorty – The Grasskats, based in Atlanta, Ga. The latter group was a mainstay on the Southern festival circuit. Shorty and his wife Elaine were inducted in the Atlanta Country Music Hall of Honor in 2007. The couple was also among the original founders of the SouthEastern Bluegrass Association (SEBA) formed in 1984.
Elaine and Shorty made two albums during their career together — Sandbox 1 and Sandbox 2. He is survived by his wife, Elaine Eager; sons, Scott and Steve Eager; daughter, Shelia Dills; step-daughter, Cheryl Newberry; step-sons Mike, Danny and Charlie Newberry; 16 grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren; sisters, Carol Frankhouser, Lillian "Polly" Messner, Ruby Fryberger; and brother, Melvin Eager.