Flatpick Guitar Masters: Scott Fore and Brandon Davis

Radford and Independence, Virginia

 Brandon Davis - Photo by: Peter Hedlund

Brandon Davis - Photo by: Peter Hedlund

The guitar was primarily used as a rhythm instrument in the United States until the late 1930s. As more and more guitar players began to play lead breaks on the guitar throughout the 1940s and ’50s, two main styles emerged—“fingerstyle” and “flatpicking.” The term “flatpicking” originated with early lead acoustic guitar players in traditional country and bluegrass music who used a plectrum to play the guitar. The plectrum of choice was called a “flat pick” or “straight pick,” as opposed to the use of finger picks, thumb picks, or bare fingers to pick the guitar’s strings. Southwest Virginia, deeply steeped in bluegrass and old time music and home to some of the fiercest guitar contests, has long been one of the nation’s great centers for flatpicking.

 Scott Fore - Photo by: Pat Jarrett

Scott Fore - Photo by: Pat Jarrett

Scott Fore grew up in musically rich Washington County, spending his summers attending fiddler’s conventions throughout Virginia and North Carolina. Scott learned guitar at the feet of the masters in late night jam sessions and by studying the competitors in guitar contests. Before long Scott began competing as well, and in time began winning numerous flatpicking competitions, including the prestigious Winfield Guitar World Championships, the Galax Fiddler’s Convention, and the Wayne C. Henderson All-Star Competition. In addition to competing in guitar contests, Scott has performed at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry, and the National Folk Festival.

Brandon Davis was born to a musical family in Galax, Virginia, in 1977. At the age of ten, Brandon learned to play bass, backing up his father, bluegrass guitarist Gary Davis. It wasn't long before Brandon turned to the guitar himself, with Gary schooling him in the basics of fiddle tunes and bluegrass standards. Living in the musically rich hills of southwestern Virginia, Brandon had the opportunity to listen and jam with some of the best roots-based musicians in the country. And as an early means of incentive, his parents pledged to purchase him a guitar built by National Heritage Award winning luthier Wayne Henderson if Brandon could master the traditional fiddle tune "Blackberry Blossom.” Brandon mastered the tune and his parents kept their promise. Ten years later, Brandon earned a second coveted Henderson guitar by winning the prestigious guitar contest at the Wayne C. Henderson Festival and Guitar Championship, where first prize is a Henderson guitar. Fueled by the motivation instilled in his youth, Brandon honed his craft and has been compared to such luminary artists as Doc Watson, Tony Rice, David Grier, and the namesake of his prized instrument, Wayne Henderson.