20 December 2019

Bill Keith (update)

Today would have been the eightieth birthday of William Bradford 'Bill' Keith - second only to Earl Scruggs as most influential 5-string bluegrass banjo player of the late twentieth century - who died on 23 October 2015.

Accounts of his life can be found in John Lawless's assessment on Bluegrass Today; the BIB's own post of 25 Oct. 2015; two major features on Bluegrass Today by Richard Thompson, appearing almost exactly four years ago (21 and 22 Dec. 2015); and Gary Reid's biographical article on Keith for the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame.

Neil Rosenberg's book Blue grass generation (2018) describes (among many other things) the electrifying impact of Bill Keith's playing on hearers while he was a member of Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys. Frank Robinson reports that Keith's playing of consecutive notes across different strings is said to have influenced Chet Atkins. A forthcoming biography of Bill Keith by Bob Carlin is eagerly awaited.

Update 21 Dec.: A valuable memoir by Bill's longtime friend Jim Rooney, incorporating a reminiscence by Bill Evans, can be read here.

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