Kenny Kosek and I became buddies in Junior High School. We both played music, so we started playing music together– first working out modern folk stuff and rock-and-roll for fun and for local “gigs.” I played guitar (and, later, mandolin), and Kenny played piano, guitar and bass. We both sang.
We continued being friends even though we ended up going to different high schools. I went to the High School of Music and Art, where I met Allen Feldman, a fine old-time-style banjo player. Kenny, Allen, and I hit it off, and soon we were jamming and having fun. Things really popped when Kenny acquired his uncle’s fiddle! Then we became the Star Spangled String Band. We were crazy about old-time music. We played constantly throughout high school, did a lot of live shows and appeared on radio often. We also traveled to the fiddlers conventions at Galax, Virginia, and Union Grove, North Carolina, a couple of years running. At Union Grove, I won first runner-up on guitar ’66 and Grand Champion on guitar in ’67.
Folks were good-natured towards us when we were teen musicians in New York City. The older musicians were very welcoming, and there were great parties too. Kind folks and great players like John Burke, Richard Blaustine, Alan Block, Ralph Lee Smith, Harold Wilson, Artie Rose….. and folks like Izzy Young who ran the Folklore Center and the great dj’s on WBAI radio.
Al Feldman has become a renowned educator and writer, and a professor at NYU. Ken Kosek today is one of the greatest fiddlers in America. He was a member of Jerry Garcia’s Acoustic Band and recorded with Garcia, James Taylor, John Denver, Chaka Kahn and a list of of other greats too long to fit on this note!