Tom King was the best backup guitarist I knew. I first met him at his music store in Morgantown, West Virginia. He sold me my first decent banjo, a Fairbanks & Cole serial number 50, made around 1890. Tom was a good friend to everyone and generous to a fault. He was an expert at repairing instruments. But he'd spend two hours on a banjo repair and only charge $10. Even though he was an excellent instrumentalist on guitar, banjo, and mandolin, Tom preferred to play back-up guitar, and was the most popular back-up man in West Virginia. He told me "I'd rather make someone else sound good than to step out front myself." He was a regular teacher at Augusta and elsewhere. He loved to go to the various festivals from the time he was a teenager. He had such a pleasant temperament, that everyone liked him. Tom always seemed to have a smile and a good word for everyone. Unfortunately, Tom battled depression, and in the summer of 1993 he lost that battle. He played for one last time with his old friends at Augusta, visited one last time with his dad and friend John Morris. He is sorely missed.
Tom left a legacy in his guitar students, on the recordings of those he played back-up for, on three tapes of his own, and in our hearts.
Gerry Milnes, Tom King, John Morris
Photo courtesy Gerry Milnes