Bill Keith interview online

Bill KeithBanjo pioneer Bill Keith is interviewed in a lengthy piece published online by the Hudson Valley Bluegrass Association.

Bill talks about his current musical activities and his involvement with a number of noteworthy ensembles in his younger days. He was introduced to most bluegrass fans when he joined Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys in 1963, where he brought his then-embryonic melodic (or scalar, fiddle-tune style) banjo techniques to much wider attention.

Keith also performed with folk artists Geoff and Maria Muldaur, and found himself a part of what came to be considered a landmark ensemble called Muleskinner. This band featured such notable artists as Clarence White on guitar, David Grisman on mandolin, Richard Green on fiddle and Peter Rowan on guitar and vocals.

“Then, the plan was that we were to back up Bill Monroe in an appearance on the television show. So we got together and rehearsed and got a few numbers to do on our own‚Ķand so rehearsed the numbers we were pretty sure Bill would play ‚Äì Foot Prints in the Snow, and Kentucky Waltz, and whatever. We had our rehearsal, and the next day we scheduled another rehearsal that Bill was supposed to come to. But we got a telephone call that he couldn’t make that rehearsal, so we added a few more tunes to what we could play on our own. The next day was a dress rehearsal in the morning and then taping in the afternoon. But Bill wasn’t there for the dress rehearsal and so we added a couple more things and of course the point in time came and he still wasn’t there, so we did the TV show on our own.”

The video of that show has been a collector’s item for fans of early 1970’s vintage modern bluegrass, and they went on to record a successful album as Muleskinner, which led to a release of the audio from the initial TV appearance.

Hear Muleskinner on Rhapsody or in iTunes.

Read the full interview online.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.