Brien Fain, a popular old time banjoist from Stuart, VA, died on April 18 following a prolonged illness. He was 46 years of age.
A native of Virginia’s Patrick County, Fain was at least a seventh-generation mountain musician, growing up in a family where most of his relatives played as well. As a boy of five, his father fashioned a banjo use for him so that he could play along with the band at dances.
Over the years, his skill at clawhammer banjo led to him taking the top prize at Galax several times, and he was a regular there and at other old time music gatherings in Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina.
Also a skilled guitarist, Brien performed with Raymond Fairchild and Mike Seeger, and as a member of the Mayo Mountain Boys. You could also see him in a banjo/fiddle duo with Stu Shenk, or playing solo at festivals like the Smithsonian Folklife Festival and National Folk Festival. Fain was also in demand for workshops, and taught often at the Blue Ridge Folklife Festival and Augusta Heritage Center.
Outside of music, Brien worked as a mechanic, and specialized in fabricating motors for race cars. He also tended a garden plot of several acres, and cherished the simple life of an Appalachian farmer.
He was quite knowledgeable about old time music, and often gave talks about the music, and the history and culture of the Appalachian region. Here he is at the 2016 Houstonfest talking about the Old Fiddlers Convention, and sharing tunes and stories. He was interviewed by Dale Morris and filmed by Carol McDuffie.
A funeral was held on April 20, and he was laid to rest in the True Gospel Baptist Church Cemetery. The family had requested donations to the Surry Animal Rescue in lieu of flowers.
R.I.P., Brien Fain.