Kirk Sutphin grew up in Walkertown, North Carolina, heavily exposed to traditional music of the region from the Round Peak fiddle styles of Surry County to the banjo picking of Charlie Poole. Throughout his life, Kirk has made an effort to visit with countless older musicians of the area. He has learned tunes from many musicians born around the turn of the 20th century. Kirk is an exceptional fiddler whose sound is often compared to that of Tommy Jarrell. He is also an excellent banjo player in both clawhammer and finger-picking styles.
Kirk’s grandfather was a fiddler who often played for local square dances with Tommy Jarrell. His grandmother loved to dance, and she told him many stories about growing up in an area that was rich in music and dance. Kirk’s father was a Charlie Poole fan, and his interest was contagious. He and Kirk played a lot of music together that included most of Charlie Poole’s recorded repertoire. Kirk not only collected recordings of Charlie Poole, he also sought out musicians who played with Poole, such as Lonnie Austin and Kinney Rorrer, in order to learn from them first hand.
Kirk spent many hours playing music with Tommy Jarrell, learning his fiddle style. Tommy reportedly said that Kirk captured the nuance of his fiddling more than anyone. Kirk has sought out numerous older musicians of the region, both in person and on recordings. He has a sizeable collection of commercial 78 rpm disks as well as home recordings of local and regional mountain musicians.
Kirk has helped teach other musicians from the area by sharing playing techniques and also his vast music collection. He has taught at music camps, from the Swannanoa Gathering and Mars Hill’s Blue-Ridge Old Time Music Week in North Carolina, to the Old-Time Music Week at the Augusta Heritage Center in West Virginia. Kirk continues to be a proponent of western North Carolina mountain music through performances with numerous musicians in the area. He has made a number of recordings, which are available from his website.