The Elkville String Band, from Wilkes County, performs old-time mountain music, playing mostly older music, but also some newer compositions from past band members Drake Walsh and Jeff Michael. Band members are all very interested in keeping the old traditional music from Western North Carolina and Southwest Virginia preserved for future generations. The band consists of Herb Key (guitar and vocals), Jim Lloyd (banjo and vocals), Trevor McKenzie (fiddle and vocals), and Bill Williams (harmony singing and bass).
The band was formed in 2001 by Jerry Lankford and served for four years as house band for the Wilkes Playmakers’ annual production of Tom Dooley, a Wilkes County Legend. The Elkville String Band won two Paul Green Multimedia Awards presented by The North Carolina Society of Historians, Inc. for the music they recorded for the play.
One of the most popular songs in their repertory is “Otto Wood the Bandit,” which immortalizes the story of a local outlaw and accomplished jail breaker who was gunned down by the police in 1930. First recorded by the Carolina Buddies in 1931, “Otto Wood the Bandit” has become the Elkville String Band’s signature song and can be found on several of the band’s recordings. In 2012, the band performed music for the play Otto Wood the Bandit by Jerry Lankford and presented at The Record Park in North Wilkesboro.
Band member Herb Key grew up in a musical family in Wilkes County. He has played music for most of his life and has spent more than thirty years making, repairing, and restoring instruments. Herb was surrounded by music played both on the radio and by his mother and uncle. When he was sixteen, his parents bought him his own Silvertone guitar, which Herb still owns today. Herb has also made a number of instruments. In addition to having his own shop, Herb works at Wayne Henderson‘s shop doing the repair work so Henderson has time to build new instruments. Over the years, Herb has played in a number of groups including the High County Ramblers, with Larry Pennington, which won in the bluegrass band category at the Galax Fiddlers Convention the year they formed.
Jim Lloyd’s musical roots extend back to at least four generations of fiddlers, guitar players, dancers, and singers from the mountains of Virginia and West Virginia. Jim is an excellent instrumentalist whose work has been documented by the Smithsonian Institution as representative of Southwest Virginia mountain storytelling and music. His guitar playing has won prizes at the Galax and Union Grove Fiddlers Conventions for many years. Jim also excels in clawhammer and two-finger picking styles on the banjo.
Growing up just outside of Rural Retreat, Virginia, Trevor McKenzie began studying traditional Appalachian music at Jim Lloyd’s Barbershop in 1998. He started with guitar and moved on to learn to play clawhammer banjo, mandolin, and the musical saw. In recent years, he has become noted for his singing abilities, claiming prizes for folk singing at the Galax Fiddlers Convention and other regional festivals. In 2012, Trevor graduated from Appalachian State University, completing a thesis on Otto Wood in his final year.
Bass player Bill Williams moved to Wilkes County from Florida in 1976, and he has immersed himself in the music of the region. He was a founding member of Steve Kilby‘s Sunday Night Band, which later became Kingsberry Run. Bill plays with a number of groups in the area which call him from time to time when they need a bass player. Bill plays primarily with Elkville String Band, and he serves as the contact person for the group.
The Elkville String Band takes its name from the Wilkes County town of Elkville – now known as Ferguson – where Tom Dooley was born.
The Elkville String Band is available for performances.