Keith Little - Biography
Born into a musical family living in the Sierra Nevada foothills of Northern California, Keith was first introduced to string band music by his father, and quickly developed on the guitar, 5-string banjo, mandolin, and fiddle.
Shortly after performing his first professional engagement in 1969, Keith was introduced to local bluegrass legends Vern Williams & Ray Park. This chance meeting would evolve into his tenure with Rose Maddox, and the Vern Williams Band, recording "Bluegrass From The Gold Country" for Rounder Records in 1980, and two subsequent albums for the Arhoolie label ("This is Rose Maddox", 1980, and "Beautiful Bouquet", 1983). In his work on these recordings and the many live engagements that followed, Keith participated in what has since proven to be a milestone in west coast country music. Arhoolie Records has recently released "Traditional Bluegrass" (a collection of their live recordings from the 1980’s), to an enthusiastic audience.
Realizing the importance of recording arts early on, Keith assembled his first studio in a rented barn in 1979, and set out composing songs and making records. Since that time he has performed on nearly 100 commercially recorded projects with Frank Wakefield’s "Blues Stay Away From Me" (for Bay Records in 1979), and the Chieftains GRAMMY winning "Another Country" (for RCA in 1992), being a few examples. Among his best known contributions are on Dolly Parton’s GRAMMY and IBMA winning "The Grass Is Blue" (Sugar Hill, 1999), and "Little Sparrow" (Sugar Hill, 2001). An amazing vocalist, Keith’s singing first appeared in a lead role on the "All Night Gang" (Sugar Hill, 1991), continuing with "Schoolhouse" (Whippoorwill, 1998), his first solo album "Distant Land To Roam" (Copper Creek, 2000), and more recently on the Butch Baldassari tribute album "The Road Home" (SoundArt Records 2009), which features Keith’s composition "The Gift", recorded at Slate Mountain Studio, near Garden Valley, CA.
Throughout a forty plus year performing career, Keith has been a key member of many national and international touring bands. Beginning with the Vern Williams Band, Rose Maddox, and continuing with San Francisco Bay area’s Grant Street String Band, and High Country, (recording "Home To Me" for Swallow Records), the Country Gentlemen ("Return Engagement" for Rebel Records), Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder ("My Father’s Son" for the Sony Label), Lonesome Standard Time ("Lonesome As It Gets" for Sugar Hill), the David Grisman Bluegrass Experience ("DGBX", and "Muddy Roads" for Acoustic Disc), and the Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band (recording the GRAMMY nominated "Legacy", and "Old School" for Compass Records), Keith has maintained a continuous presence on the national and international concert and festival circuit. At home on center stage, or in a supporting role, Keith performs as a solo artist, and with his group the LittleBand. He also appears regularly with long-time friend and collaborator Jim Nunally, and is a featured member of the David Grisman Bluegrass Experience.
A dedicated teacher and coach, Keith has been a mainstay instructor at many of the top national and international acoustic music workshops, including the California Coast Music Camp, the British Columbia Bluegrass Workshop, Augusta Heritage Workshop, Puget Sound Guitar Workshop, the California Bluegrass Association’s Father’s Day Music Camp and WinterCamp (2003-2019), Walker Creek Music Camp (2013-2019), American River Music Camp/RiverTunes (2006-2019), Shasta String Summit (2014-2022), Kowana Valley Folk School (2014-18), American Banjo Camp (2018), and the Sore Fingers School in Oxfordshire England (2006,08,2019).
In addition to his studio and performing work, Keith’s compositions have been recorded by Claire Lynch, Tim O’Brien, Country Gentlemen, Longview, Crystal Gayle, Vern Williams, and the Whites (among others). In 2018, Keith was chosen for the first “Master Artist Award”, given in collaboration between Whippoorwill Arts and the Freshgrass Foundation, which included a feature article in "No Depression" magazine, and a series of appearances with "Emerging Artist Award" winner and longtime friend Molly Tuttle. Keith is a proud 36-year Life member of the American Federation of Musicians, a professional member of the IBMA, the OBA, and is an honorary lifetime member of the California Bluegrass Association. Keith now makes his home in the Greensprings Mountain area of southern Oregon, near Ashland.