The Camp Creek Boys from Surry County are known as one of the premier old-time bands of the region, particularly in the 1960s when the band dominated the fiddlers convention circuits of northwestern North Carolina and southwestern Virginia.
Formed in the 1930s, the band name was suggested by banjo player and fiddler, Kyle Creed, who suggested the name since the water of the creek runs through the Beulah community where he was raised and where a lot of great fiddle conventions took place over the years. Other members of the band included Fred Cockerham on fiddle and some banjo, Paul Sutphin on guitar, Verlen Clifton on mandolin, Ronald Collins on guitar, and Ernest East on fiddle. Other members played in the group over the years, including Benton Flippen and Bobby Patterson.
The group started playing primarily for local events and social gatherings, and they started attending local fiddlers conventions in the late 1930s. Around this time through the mid-1950s, the band, and several of its members individually, played on local radio stations, while broadcasting was still done mostly live.
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.
Many players in the old-time music scene continue to refer to the Camp Creek Boys sound in the 1960s as the quintessential old-time string band sound. Musician and journalist, Paul Brown, says, “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.”
The band’s performing and recording helped popularize several tunes into the broader old-time music scene’s repertoire, including “Fortune,” “Let Me Fall,” “Fall On My Knees,” and “Breaking Up Christmas,” among others. Musicians learned from hearing them on stage and on records, and by forming relationships with the individual band members. Kyle Creed befriended many banjo players who bought his instruments, and he started his own record label to help release old-time recordings. Ernest East created the Pine Ridge Boys, while Paul Sutphin and Benton Flippen started the Smokey Valley Boys, broadening the number of area musicians playing old-time string band music in the style of the Camp Creek Boys.
The Camp Creek Boys legacy remains strong in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and Surry County remains a hot spot for old-time string bands and fiddlers conventions.