Will Keys was born in 1923 in the Blackley Creek region of eastern Tennessee, the tenth of 11 children. He started playing the banjo at the age of eight, gradually developing his own unique two-finger picking style. After serving in World War II, Keys returned to his home state, settling in Gray, TN, in 1950, and began to work for the Eastman Chemical Company, where he remained for 42 years, retiring in 1984.

Keys won the old-time banjo contest at the famed Galax Fiddler's Convention in 1978, and his bell-like tone and melodic playing have earned him the admiring respect of a whole generation of banjo players. In 1996 he was awarded a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. Keys is a remarkably unique musician, having pulled off the difficult feat of developing a highly individual style while still maintaining a traditional Appalachian feel. Keys has released a video, Oldtime Banjo from Blackley Creek, and his album, Banjo Original, was released by County Records in 1997. Will Keys passed on November 4, 2005. ~ Steve Leggett, Rovi