Kevin Fore is a native of the Round Peak section of Surry County, North Carolina. Although he did not start playing the banjo until he was 26 years old, it did not take him long to discover that playing and making banjos was his true passion in life.
Around 1999, Kevin went to see Benton Flippen’s band, The Smokey Valley Boys, at the Alleghany Jubilee in Sparta, North Carolina. That night changed his life forever. He decided that he wanted to learn how to play the banjo in the local, old-time Round Peak style. He basically taught himself to play by listening to recordings of older musicians from the Round Peak area. The first recordings he bought were Tommy Jarrell’s Joke on the Puppy, Dix Freeman’s Tonenail Gap String Band, and Kyle Creed’s Liberty album. These recordings influenced Kevin’s banjo playing in a profound way because he learned things from them that he could not learn from most current players, because many of the special techniques the older musicians employed are not found in most of the present-day banjo players’ repertoire.
Kevin was extremely lucky to have relatives and friends around him who encouraged him to carry on the tradition of playing the banjo in the Round Peak style. Kevin’s cousins, Paul Sutphin, Verlin Clifton, and Kirk Sutphin offered him valuable support and emphasized the importance of learning the “old ways.” Paul told Kevin about his great grandpa, Dock Golding, and great-great grandpa, William Baugie Golding, who were also clawhammer banjo players in Round Peak. Kirk and Verlin showed Kevin several tunes on the banjo and helped him get his start. Kevin’s deep respect and love for the “old way” of playing shines through the melody of each song he plays.
Following in the footsteps of legendary musician and banjo-builder, Kyle Creed, Kevin felt like trying to build his own banjo in June of 2007. After building his first banjo, and receiving several compliments on the banjo, it inspired him to think about starting a banjo business and simply, one banjo led to another. From June to December Kevin built seven banjos and had a couple of orders to make more. Kevin builds open-back banjos with or without frets in a style similar to that of Kyle Creed’s banjos. He strives to build his banjos with minimal decoration having a solid, full, Round Peak sound. Kevin puts his heart and soul into each banjo he builds.
As many musicians from the Round Peak area have done in the past, Kevin travels “up the mountain” to play with musicians from the Galax, Virginia area. Currently Kevin plays the banjo with the award-winning Galax, Virginia-based old-time string band, Southern Pride. Kevin also plays shows with Kirk Sutphin and Benton Flippen on a regular basis. This is Kevin’s first recording.