Herbert (Herb) Milton Key was born October 25, 1936 in Wilkes County, NC in a little community around Cub Creek Church.
Those that grew up during this period know just how hard times were during World War II. Many fathers, like Herb’s, were away fighting for our freedom. But there were happy times too. He will never forget how his mother stepped up and made life for his family as happy as possible. She could strum the guitar and sing old ballads for her children. Two in particular that Herb remembers are “Barbara Allen” and the “Wildwood Flower”. Those tunes and a small wooden encased radio actually started his long dedication to music and musical instruments. Later he learned to play on his mother’s guitar even though it was awfully hard to note. Her guitar still hangs on his wall today. It was about that time when his grandmother’s old windup Victrola 78 record player came into the picture. Grandmother wouldn’t let Herb wind up the old Victrola but she would sit him in the floor while she played those old records for him. One that she played over and over was the “Wildwood Flower” by the Carter Family. Mother Maybelle’s lead picking just “blew me away”. It took a while but Herb finally learned to play it.
There wasn’t a whole lot of free time back then and there were many chores to be done like dragging limbs in from the woods which provided a lot of our heat and fuel for the wood cook stove. When an axe handle broke or something “tore up” the solution was to fix it. This mind set allowed Herb to work on musical instruments a little later on.
Herb’s dad was a carpenter and he built the house that Herb was born in and where his younger brother still lives. He remodeled it over the years and Herb helped him do a lot of that. Actually that’s where he got my start in woodworking.
Herb presently works one day a week in Wayne Henderson’s Guitar Shop in Rugby, VA repairing and restoring mostly older instruments. The rest of time, he is repairing and restoring instruments in his shop at home in Wilkesboro, NC.
Herb Key has spent around fifty years making, repairing and restoring musical instruments and have played music most of his life.