Walt Koken


Walt began playing the five string banjo in 1959. He first played in an old time string band in 1965 in the Busted Toe Mudthumpers, based in Ithaca NY. He also played four-string (plectrum) banjo in the Muskrat Ramblers, a New Orleans style seven-peice traditional jazz band around that time, which gave him his background and repertoire along those lines. The Mudthumpers travelled to the San Francisco Bay area twice in 1968 and 1969. When their fiddler, George Dorian, and guitar player, Bob Pine were killed in an aoutomobile accident, Walt began playing fiddle himself, and by late1970 had formed a new band in Berkeley with Mac Benford, and Bob Potts, called the Fat City String Band. In the spring of 1972, the three of them teamed up with Doug Dorschug and Jennifer Cleland to form the Highwoods Stringband, who spent the next seven years touring the country, as well as a tour of Central and South America in 1974, and a tour of Europe in 1977. They made Three LP records on the Rounder label, parts of which were recently re-released in a compilation CD called Feed Your Babies Onions...Fat City Favorites. In 1978, Walt retired from the unprofitable old-time music business, and began a carpentry career. In the early 1990's he began playing the banjo again and making recordings on a DAT machine loaned to him by Marty Lebenson, the mouth harp player in the old Busted Toe Mudthumpers. Since that time he has released three CD's, two of them on Rounder, Banjonique, and Hei-wa Hoedown, and a third on Mudthumper, Finger Lakes Ramble. The Rounder CD's are becoming increasingly hard to obtain, so check with Walt before ordering them. He currently resides in Chester County PA, which is a hot-bed of old time music, and where he plays occasional square dances and concerts with "The Cacklin' Hens and Roosters Too!" He has a recording out called "Just Tunes", a collection of banjo-fiddle duets with Clare Milliner, a long-time fiddler in the "Hens and Roosters". And the latest release, "Orpheus Supertones".

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