Bill Keith Collection, 1960-2013

MS 1037

1 box (0.25 linear foot)

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A stylistic innovator and influential perfomer on the five string banjo, Bill Keith is credited with transforming the instrument from a largely percussive role into a one where it carried the melody. A native of Boston and 1961 graduate of Amherst College, Keith cut his teeth as a performer in New England clubs during the hey day of the folk revival, often partnering with his college roomate Jim Rooney, and he spent the better part of the decade as a member of two high profile acts: Bill Monroe's Bluegrass Boys, with whom he played for eight critical month in 1963, and the Jim Kweskin Jug Band. Adding the pedal steel guitar to his repertoire, Keith performed on stage and in studio with a stylistically and generationally diverse range of acts including Ian and Sylvia, Judy Collins, Richie Havens, Loudon Wainwright, and the Bee Gees. Keith continued performing nearly to the time of his death by cancer in October 2015.

Collection of photographs and ephemera from Keith's musical career, including early images playing the Boston coffee houses and at Newport Folk Festival. Keith's popularity in Japan resulted in fliers, ephemera, and photographs from his 50th anniversary Jug Band Reunion tour of 2013.

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Special Collections and University Archives, UMass Amherst Libraries

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The collection is open for research.
Jim Rooney, tuning his guitar, and Bill Keith at the Newport Folk Festival, 1965
Jim Rooney, tuning his guitar, and Bill Keith at the Newport Folk Festival, 1965