Willie Kemp was born in 1889 in Oldmeldrum, Aberdeenshire and first performed publicly at his parents' hotel. When radio arrived in the 1920s Willie quickly became popular, and like others of his generation, went on to record many records (on the Beltona label) which sold extremely well.
In addition to composing and singing bothy ballads, he played tin whistle, trump (or Jew's harp), and ocarina. He recorded many songs and tunes with accordionist Curley MacKay. A book of his songs came out in 1950, Kerr's Cornkisters (Bothy Ballads), and during the 1960s an 12" vinyl LP called The Cornkisters featuring tracks by Willie Kemp and Tom Wright (another bothy ballad singer) was released. The tracks are made up from old Beltona sides.