Will KeysMarch 06, 2012
Will Allison Keys was the eleventh child of twelve born to Will Aaron Keys and the former Amy Elizabeth Taylor in the Blackley Creek community of Washington County, Tenn. He graduated from Sulphur Springs High School and served in the Marine Corps during World War II. He was in some of the heaviest fighting in the war on the island of Okinawa, and was stationed in China and on Guadalcanal. After the war Will married the former Lola Hobbs in Clinton, North Carolina and moved back to the farm in East Tennessee. After working at Tennessee Eastman Company for 42 years, he retired and began his music career.
A two-fingered-style banjo player since his childhood, Will began performing in 1974 with the Homefolks at the Carter Fold in Hiltons, Va. The band featured Will, Tom Bledsoe, the late Beachard Smith and the late Paul Davis. Later, Will would become a nationally-known oldtime banjoist, with performances at the 1982 World's Fair in Knoxville, Tenn., the Maryland Banjo Academy in Buckeystown, Md., the Tennessee Banjo Institute in Lebanon, Tenn., two Smithsonian Folklife Festivals, and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., among his many appearances. He was a member of the select "Masters of the Banjo" tours organized by the National Council for the Traditional Arts in 1994. Will also received the National Heritage Award in 1996, and recorded several tapes and CDs, plus one video with his band, Evergreen, consisting of Barbara Kuhns (fiddle) and Doug Smith (guitar) of Medway, Ohio.
Will passed away on November 4, 2005 due to complications from a malignant brain tumor.