The Old-Time Herald Volume 10, Number 3


"Bob Taylor’s March"
from Will Keys

By Chip Arnold

Will Keys was a unique and beautiful man who played unique and beautiful music on his old Paramount banjo. For his keen intellect, kind heart, and his beautiful smile, he received the love and respect of all who knew him. For his skill with the five-string banjo, he

Photo David Bragger
Listen to Chip Arnold perform Will Key's "Bob Taylor's March"
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received a Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. He toured both coasts with the Masters of the Banjo tour, played at the Kennedy Center and was a regular performer at the Carter Fold for nearly 30 years. Many readers remember Will and his old green bus from performances and festivals all over the southeast.

“Bob Taylor’s March,” which is actually a waltz, was one of Will’s favorites. The lovely tune has an interesting connection to Will and to Tennessee history. It comes from the fiddling Taylor brothers of East Tennessee, to whom Will was distantly related. In 1886, Bob and Alf Taylor ran against one another for governor of Tennessee, campaigning all over the state with their fiddles instead of stump speeches and debates.

Will had a two-finger, up-picking style all his own. You can think of his approach to tunes as simply finding the most pleasing route from one melody note to the next. To accomplish this he used a bag of tricks that he said came from “trying to play myself to sleep during 40 plus years of shift work.” He loved to play the old parlor songs and waltzes, and his style is wonderfully suited to them.

Will often crossed his thumb up over his index finger to achieve patterns and reach notes not readily available otherwise. This technique is also helpful when playing in 3/4 time or when playing in closed chord positions up the neck. It’s a little awkward at first but becomes natural with practice. If you’re a clawhammer picker, remember to rest your middle, ring and pinkie fingers lightly on the head.

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