old-time banjo player, Gray
National Heritage Fellowship (1996)
Though never a professional, Will Keys (1923-2005) led a life dedicated to old-time instrumental music, and he gained wide acclaim for his precise and understated two-finger banjo style. Raised in musically rich Upper East Tennessee, Keys was drawn to good melodies and perfected his unusual technique to deliver them effectively. He was a featured participant in the Tennessee program at the 1986 Smithsonian Festival of American Folklife and in 1993 performed nationwide in the Masters of the Banjo tour organized by the National Council for the Traditional Arts.