Tom Mylet



excerpt from Tom Mylet interview (

Tom Mylet: After the release of County Records’ 1965 LP “Clawhammer Banjo,” I was among the musicians who sought out Kyle to learn his style. We’d sit on Kyle’s back porch and I’d record these sessions, using Kyle’s recording machine, which would later [in 2009] become the CD, “Banjo Lessons on Kyle’s Back Porch.”

I heard that Kyle thought I was “polite, and kept good time,” and that he might call me. I started playing banjo with Kyle and the Camp Creek Boys in 1976. I played off and on with Kyle from 1976 to 1982.

Soon, my wife and I became great friends with Kyle and his wife, Percy. They referred to us as “their kids.” Marianne and I didn’t have a TV and we’d go over once a week or so and watch “The Dating Game” with them. We’d all make comments about the contestants.

Sometimes Kyle would say, “Percy, do you have any of that cake you made?” Along with it she served pre-sweetened iced tea. Kyle would add one teaspoon of sugar after another to his—it seems like maybe ten teaspoons! Once we were done, he would get this burst of energy and say, “Let’s go out to the shop and work on a banjo.” His shop was maybe 6 by 10 feet and he put a plywood top over his table saw for his main workspace.

He taught me lots of other things. What little of plumbing I know I got from fixing frozen pipes under my house with Kyle’s help. Or he’d say, “Let’s get together and cut some wood.” So he came over, to my surprise, with a horse. When you’re cutting timber on a hill, I’d learn, there are places you can’t get to in a pickup truck. But you could drag the logs down with a horse, keeping them on long reins.

And he knew at least as much about horses as he did banjos—about buying horses and “breaking” them while he taught them to drag wood.

He was a good timber cruiser—someone who can walk the woods and assign value to the timber. And he owned his own sawmill; he would buy timbered land and clear it to sell lumber, then sell the cleared land. And he’d sell horses to farmers to make gardens. He had it going from every direction!

The thing I liked about Kyle and his playing was the thing I liked about everything he did: an incredibly elegant sense of simplicity. It wasn’t that I learned to play like him so much as to think like him, to find simple ways to accomplish what I want to play.

I heard about Charlie Faurot [of Old Blue Records] 40 years ago. I was trying to find authentic American music. And of course that led me to the “Clawhammer Banjo” compilation recordings that he and David Freeman released for County Records. That was classic stuff. Charlie was important to a lot of guys like me.

Back then there wasn’t an Old-Time Herald or BNL. Bluegrass Unlimited was a mimeographed sheet. Anything Charlie did was interesting to me. Of course his recordings of Wade Ward, Kyle Creed, Fred Cockerham, and George Stoneman led to the first record devoted to clawhammer banjo. I learned about the Camp Creek Boys through his recording of them. Not only did he point a lot of us in the right direction, he also validated the music of some of the older guys whom locals might have been tempted to see as old-fashioned eccentrics.

Charlie and I were wandering around the Galax Old Fiddler’s Convention early one evening. He said, “I’m going to retire in a couple of years. Would you like to take over Old Blue Records?” I said, “Wow.” And I thought, “This is a big responsibility.” Of course I said yes. We said we’d stay in touch over the next couple of years, and the next thing you know, Charlie was diagnosed with cancer. Things started happening faster than we expected. The idea was that I would take it over around now, or this coming fall.

There is a ton of recorded old material, like six or seven good cuts that didn’t end up on the original Camp Creek Boys album. All the players on the second and third “Clawhammer Banjo” volumes had selected only one or two cuts per person. But there’s lots more they recorded that has yet to be released.


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