Bill Keith had great impact on modern banjo playing, particularly in the direction of "newgrass." He even had a picking style informally named after him. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Keith began taking banjo lessons at a young age, and also learned to play piano and ukulele. During adolescence, he played in a few Dixieland bands, but by the late '50s became interested in folk music after listening to such inspirational artists as Pete Seeger and Earl Scruggs. Using instruction books, the Amherst college student began learning their two different styles. Eventually, Keith began developing his own unique style, which became known as the melodic, chromatic or "Keith" picking style. This distinct technique was born of his desire to play fiddle melodies on his instruments. In 1958, he teamed up with fellow Amherst student Jim Rooney and began playing at local coffeehouses and on campus. Eventually they hooked up with promoter Manny Greenhill; with his assistance they founded the Connecticut Folklore Society, which sponsored a series of traveling campus concerts throughout New England.