A Big Welcome From Bill Burke and Fred Coon!
We met over thirty years ago at the Encanto Park Music Festival in Phoenix, Arizona. For many years prior to becoming acquainted, we had both played and loved old-time music. During our lives, we each had shared our music with anyone interested in learning more about the history, music, and traditions of Appalachia. Separately and together, we have performed at numerous live concerts, on radio programs including NPR station affiliates, and on television throughout America. We’d like to think our passion for old-time music is contagious and since the day we met, we haven’t stopped playing or sharing their love of their music with audiences.
Bill is a master cabinet maker with a waiting list of discriminating buyers. His furniture has been exhibited in the United States and Great Britain and evidences the craftsmanship one would expect from the great cabinet makers of generations past. He is also a luthier and applies the same master craftsman skills with his instruments as he does with his exquisite cabinetry. His specialty instruments are mandolins, guitars and banjos. His work reflects his high standard for excellence and his instruments have a tone that is recognized by musicians across the country as balanced and pure.
Fred owns a company that helps people with job and career transition. He is the author of a three best-selling books, a contributing author to several publications, and is the Managing Editor of The U.S. At Work Network, a network that interviews executives and luminaries on solving complex business problems. When he’s not helping people find jobs, lecturing, or conducting workshops on job search, he loves to play his banjo and tell personal and family stories that are, in turn, outrageously funny, poignant and gritty. His banjo style was learned from his father and his songs come from nearly 300 years of Appalachian family tradition in America.
One of the fond memories we both have from our 30-years performing together was when we were invited to conduct old-time banjo workshops and to perform at the Illawara Folk Festival in Bulli, NSW, Australia. At the festival, our CD, Black Bear On The Mountain, sold out. While at the festival, we conducted two old-time banjo workshops and performed on stage three times. There was very tight stage scheduling at the festival which means you better get on, do your thing, and get off the stage quickly. Tuning is on you, not the following group or performer. We were told by several Illawara Board members and other multi-year festival attendees, we were the only act, that year, to be allowed to respond to a call from the audience for an encore for the entire festival. We still thank Rick and Dona Nestler for giving up some of their time on stage so we could honor the audience request. We met that encore request with one of our favorite songs, a Doc Watson classic, My Home Is Across The Blue Ridge Mountains.
When a promoter from Sydney heard us perform, and witnessed the audience response, he invited us to perform at The Gaelic Club in Sydney. We shared the stage that evening with Lindsay Haisley and his wife, Cheryl Dehut. Lindsay and Cheryl are wonderful performers and Lindsay is one of the best technical Autoharp players in the U.S. Some of the local folks in the audience from New South Wales had driven more than two hours to attend our show. That too, was a truly humbling experience in both our musical and personal lives.