JFS #204 The Bill Keith Interview



My guest today is the greatest banjo player the world has ever seen. That could be because of the advent of air travel but probably not.

He was born in Boston, MA a city rich with history and prose and fiddling. This breadbasket of culture lent itself to my guest who was bubbling with an urge to play burning music- bluegrass music.

From the Ash Grove Fiddlers Convention to Farms in Appalachia my guest found himself playing with the father of bluegrass Bill Monroe. In time he recognized Monroe's expectation that he develop his own sound on the banjo, be inventive, lead don't follow, I'll take A Melody.

Which is what my guest did developing a style of playing that focused on the melody. Chromatic hits that required listening to his bandmates, taking chances and learning how to improvise melodically. Just like Ed Cassady and the Georgia Corn Stompers or Earl Skruggs or Bill Emerson.

With this new style of banjo playing Keith joined Muleskinner with a bunch of pranksters including Richard Greene, David Grisman, Peter Rowan and the late great Clarence White- another inventor.

My guest played in road worthy bands and was an in demand session player on both banjo and pedal steel. Might be Ian and Sylvia or a little Pottery Pie with Geoff Muldaur, relaxin his mind with Jim Rooney or playing on the back porch with Tony Trishka.



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