According to Roylance, the constant presence of music in his family in one form or another (his father played oboe with the Utah Symphony) made him vulnerable to the infectious "germ" of folk music when it appeared on the scene during his teen years. Like Cannon and Bradford, Roylance spent a goodly amount of time listening to various forms of folk music—The Kingston Trio, The Weavers, Pete Seeger—and was drawn to the banjo and guitar. He taught himself how to play by slowing down records and figuring out the chords, reproducing what he heard. His plucking eventually became so proficient that he began offering banjo lessons to other folk artists.
In 1964, Roylance and Bruce Phillips of the Utah Valley Boys joined with Polly Stewart to form Polly and the Valley Boys, vocal and instrumental ensemble with old-time string-band instrumentation. They played and sang together—labor and traditional songs, Phillips' own compositions, and bluegrass variations—for two years. Phillips was lead singer and guitarist, and an occasional mandolinist; Roylance played five-string banjo and flatpick guitar, and sang bass; Stewart strummed the autoharp (chorded zither) and rhythm guitar, sang harmony to Phillips' lead, and performed vocal solos.
Realizing that "there are no career moves in folk music" (a saying attributed to Utah Phillips), Roylance majored in mechanical engineering, continuing at the U through graduate school. The group broke up in 1966 when Stewart left for graduate school. And a year later, Roylance was in the Army.
Following a stint in Vietnam, which, says Roylance, "opened my eyes to reality,” he eventually snagged a job teaching engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he has remained for the past 32 years. Even though the study of polymers ("plastics;' in the parlance of The Graduate) has occupied his attention during that time, Roylance maintains that "the folk music era was the highlight of my life.” (From article The Revivalists by Linda Marion)