Kevin Fore grew up in the Beulah/Lowgap area of Surry County. He plays Round Peak style clawhammer banjo and is one of the youngest native tradition bearers of the style. Kevin took an interest in the traditional music of his community after he graduated high school and a doctor advised him against his hobby of racing cars on a dirt track. “I’m allergic to dust,” explains Kevin, “so I started going to square dances where Benton Flippen was playing.”
He wanted to play the banjo, and he sought out traditional musicians in his community as teachers. He visited his cousin Verlen Clifton of the Camp Creek Boys fame to learn banjo tunes and made trips to fiddler Benton Flippen’s house to hear him play. When he met Kirk Sutphin at a dance where he was playing with Benton, he discovered family ties. “He’s my double cousin,” says Kevin. Kirk gave Kevin copies of home recordings of Tommy Jarrell, Fred Cockerham, Kyle Creed, and other local traditional musicians. Soon, Kevin was playing banjo behind Kirk’s fiddle. “That’s how I’ve learned the biggest part of my music,” Kevin says, “off home recordings and going to Kirk’s.”
The more Kevin learned about the vibrant Round Peak music tradition, the more he discovered about his own family ties to the music. According to another cousin Paul Sutphin, another member of the legendary Camp Creek Boys, one of Kevin’s great-great-grandfathers was a master banjo picker in Round Peak, and his great-grandfather also played the banjo in Round Peak. He is distantly related to Sadie and Lilly Scott, who played with Tommy Jarrell.
Kevin also learned that Kyle Creed first heard Ben Jarrell (Tommy’s father) play for a dance at Kevin’s great-great-grandfather Baugie Golding’s home one Christmas.
Kevin has won numerous awards for his banjo playing through the years and since 2007 he started building banjos in the style of Kyle Creed’s banjos. Some folks have told Kevin he has picked up where Kyle left off.
Kevin and his wife Trish Kilby Fore, also an award winning clawhammer banjo player, recently moved from Lowgap, NC just over the mountain to Galax, VA near the Blue Ridge Music Center and Kyle Creed’s old home.
Kevin most often plays with his own band The Round Peak Boys featuring Kirk Sutphin on fiddle and his other band he joined up in several years ago, Southern Pride, a Galax-based band that has been around for more than a decade and includes Joey and James Burris and Terry Semones. They have many first place winnings at the local fiddlers conventions including the Galax Fiddlers’ Convention.
Kevin is proud to be carrying on the tradition of his home community. “I just love the music,” he says. “I love carrying on the Round Peak tradition.”