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Tanya Gonyo was just seven months old when her grandfather Kyle Creed, a local old-time music legend, passed away in 1982.
But when Gonyo, now 27, of Richmond, stepped into the Stringbean Coffee Shop on Sept. 12 and saw hundreds of old pictures and banjos her grandfather made, the overwhelming feeling brought tears to her eyes as she realized what his banjo playing and instrument making has inspired.
“I didn't know he had such an impact on the community like he has here,” said Gonyo, as she strummed her grandpa's banjo — the last one he ever played. “It's a chapter in my life I didn't know about, and this show just makes me feel closer to him.”
It was a surreal experience, like meeting someone famous, she said.
Organized by local musicians Kevin Fore and Bobby Patterson, an all-day Kyle Creed banjo show was held to commemorate Creed’s legacy. Fore and Patterson gathered and displayed 28 banjos that Creed created, though he is suspected to have made dozens.
“No two banjos that Creed built are alike,” said Fore. “All of Creed’s banjos had a distinct sound that drew people to purchase his banjos.”
Creed’s banjos are some of the most sought after by old-time musicians and collectors and can be found all over the world.
Creed grew up in Surry County, N.C., and settled in the Coleman community in Carroll County. From a musical family, he was an excellent clawhammer banjo player and fiddler and had a distinctive style characterized by his clear and crisp sound, playing the melody note-for-note.
Creed was also well-known as a skilled banjo maker, with his instruments treasured by people all over the world.
One banjo collector, Jeffrey Yamada, flew in from Japan to proudly display his Kyle Creed-made instrument.
Yamada said when he began researching American music — country, bluegrass and old-time — he became especially intrigued by Creed's music, calling the sound “pure.”
“I enjoy playing old-time and Creed's music really opened my eyes to this music,” he said.
Yamada purchased the Creed banjo online five years ago and said it's his most prized banjo yet.
Another collector, Bob Clements, traveled from New Jersey to showcase his Creed banjo.
Clements purchased a Creed album many years ago and fell in love with old-time music. That's when he decided to take a trip to Galax and meet Creed at the country store he owned in Carroll County.
“Before we knew it, we were staying in his house on vacation and his wife was baking a cake for our daughter's birthday,” he said. “He was just a real nice guy, and he called everybody neighbor. He'd say 'hi neighbor.'”
Clements met Creed in 1975 and now has two Creed banjos.
“We still visit his grave and keep his family in our daily prayers,” he said. “He's like nobody I've ever met. He was good with everybody.”
Fore said more than 100 people attended the event and collected tons of pictures of Creed.
“This event has gone really well,” said Fore's wife, Trish. “We got to see the impact that Kyle and his music and banjos made on people's lives, and each banjo here has a unique story.”