Kyle Creed (1912-1982) grew up in the Beulah community of Surry County, NC. His father played fiddle; his brother, uncle, and grandfather were also musicians; and other musicians in the community also influenced his playing. Kyle started learning to play banjo and fiddle in his teens; as part of his learning process, he made his own first banjo and fiddle. His fiddle playing was described as “straight-forward, melody-driven, and peppy; it makes people want to dance.”
Kyle became a skilled woodworker, applying his talents both to carpentry and to designing and building high-quality banjos. He also built and ran a country store near Galax, Virginia, and he and a business partner built a recording studio to record local old-time music groups. Two of Kyle’s fretless banjos are housed in the Smithsonian Institute.
In the 1930s, he and other Surry County musicians formed the Camp Creek Boys old-time string band, named by Kyle after a creek that ran through the Beulah community. The Blue Ridge Heritage summarizes the band’s long and busy performing life:
“In the late 1950s and 1960s, fiddlers conventions and festivals increased significantly in the region, and the Camp Creek Boys had an event to attend nearly every weekend from spring through fall. In 1967, County Records producer, Dave Freeman, wrote, ‘The constant activity and competition keep the musicians well-practiced and sharp, and, the fact is, they are continually winning prizes and ribbons.’ During this period, the Camp Creek Boys were championing their hard-driving, fiddle-banjo-led, old-time style that would become known as the ‘Round Peak’ style.”
Thanks in part to the Camp Creek Boys’ recordings, the Round Peak style became popular and was thought of by many as “the quintessential old-time string band sound.” New musicians from outside the Round Peak area tried to imitate that style of playing, and some of them succeeded well enough to surprise Kyle Creed. At a West Virginia music festival in the 1970s, Kyle awoke from a nap to hear someone playing Round Peak-style banjo. An onlooker heard him say, “Everywhere I go I hear myself playing.”
“The Camp Creek Boys defined southern old-time string band music in their time as the Beatles defined rock in the 1960s or Flatt & Scruggs and Bill Monroe embodied bluegrass in the 40s.” -musician and journalist Paul Brown