He is a 5-string banjo player, guitarist, fiddler and
songwriter born in New York City.
While still young he began an interest in old-time music and soon became
an extremely talented banjo player and guitarist.
For a short time early on in his career he played as
half of a duo with Woodie Guthrie and in 1953 he recorded his own Folksongs
of the Southern Appalachian Mountains. From there went to be a member of
the old-time music group The New Lost City Ramblers where his co-members
included John Cohen and Mike Seeger.
It was with this group that his arrangement and the guitar picking
on the tune “Railroad Blues” became highly acclaimed.
After the disbandment of the original members of the
group he co-founded the Old Reliable String Band and then in 1963 moved to
Sweden, where he stayed for the next three years.
In 1965 relocated once again to England, where he has
lived ever since although continuing to perform, record and tour throughout
Europe and the United States.
In 1975 he decided that the guitar and the banjo
weren’t enough and he took to playing the fiddle to the point that he
has since been awarded the Swedish Zorn medal.
Throughout his career he has performed as a
well-respected soloist and as part of groups such time in the 1970s with
the New Deal String Band and in the 1990s The Mysterious Redbirds.
His recording output has been fairly substantial with
him appear on his own Sue Cow, Hard Luck Papa - Old Time Picking Styles
and Techniques, Stern Old Bachelor, Old Tom Moore and More as well as Second
Spring by Matthews’ Southern Comfort, The Mysterious Redbirds
with The Mysterious Redbirds, Down in the Willow and Dealing a
New Hand (from the Same Old Deck) with The New Deal String Band, The
Old Reliable String Band with The Old Reliable String Band, Shivaree
and Courtin’s a Pleasure with Jean Richie & Oscar Brand, Heartsease
and Separate Ways with Barbara Lester & Ben Paley and Who’s
Going to Show Your Pretty Little Foot? With Claudia Paley & Peggy
Since 1993 he has regularly performed at the yearly
Friends of American Old Time Music and Dance in the UK and now holds the
position of the society’s President. Performing right into the 2000s he
has worked often with his son, Ben, also an acclaimed fiddler, and released
the album Beware Young Ladies in 2007.