Walt Koken Keeps Old Time Tradition Alive

In the Old Time community, Walt Koken is a legend. In addition to taking clawhammer banjo “beyond its limits,”  Walt and his musical and spiritual partner Clare Milliner have published the long-awaited “Milliner – Koken Collection of American Fiddle Tunes”, 1404 transcriptions of commonly played tunes.

“In 1959, my brother had broken his arm, and he heard that playing guitar might be a good way to get its strength back. He got this old guitar with a warped neck and high strings, and started strummin’ it. I really thought that was neat, and one day he came to me and said, ‘Why don’t you get a banjo, and we’ll make some money?'” – Walt Koken

That suggestion was powerful enough to lure Walt into a lifetime love of banjo and fiddle music. From the Busted Toe Mudthumpers to the Fat City String Band to the wickedly influential HighwoodsStringband, Walt’s banjo and fiddle playing have guided several generations of old time players. Walt and Clare have a recording called “Just Tunes”, a collection of banjo-fiddle duets. They’ve also recorded with the string band the “Orpheus Supertones.”

“Old time music is for dancing and its songs are for lifting us above our burdens. Our music gives relief from the everyday burdens of modern life, and an insight into a simpler time, with a glimmer of hope for us all.” – Walt Koken

KUVD University of Delaware Radio conducted a nice interview with Walt and Claire where the Walt talks about what got him started with this kind of music when he played in bands such as The Highwoods String Band and The Fat City String Band.

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