Wonderful Walter Cooke

Walter the Musician

Walter's first stringed instrument was a baritone ukulele that he bought for himself from Sears when he was a teenager. He started playing the guitar as a teenager when someone gave him a very cheap wooden one that was nearly unplayable. He stopped playing in college and then started playing again in his late twenties (the mid-1960's). He got his beloved Martin 0018 in the early 1970's. At about the same time he took up the harmonica.

Walter Cooke with guitar in 1970'sHe took group guitar and singing lessons from Carol McComb at Griffin Music in Palo Alto, CA. and took nearly every workshop and retreat she offered for years.

He played in the folk music group Salt of the Earth in the early 70's. He was active in the Mountain View Folk Music Club, the Peninsula Folk Music Club and the San Francisco Folk Music Club. Do you see a trend here? He was president off and on of both the Mountain View and the Peninsula clubs.

Somewhere in the early 1970's he even taught harmonica for the local Sunnyvale Parks and Recreation department.
Walter A Cooke playing harmonica
When he lived in Sunnyvale, CA in the 60's and 70's his favorite jam session was called Big W. A varying group of musicians gathered at Johnny's house every Wednesday evening --except of course when it drifted around to other people's houses in the Palo Alto area. They'd play late into the night and things only got noisier as the number of banjos increased.

Walter A Cooke at a jam session

While Big W is no more (actually we have since heard they are still going!), occasionally we still manage to organize a jam session. Note the notebooks and stray pieces of music--proof it's a jam session since nobody knows the words!

Walter made the gut bucket in this photo--well okay all you can see is the string and the handle but you know what we mean. He began making instruments in the 70's starting with mountain dulcimer which was pretty but didn't work very well. Since then he's made an Canjo and several wonderful gut buckets--that's a washtub bass for those of you are uninformed about such things.

Walter's Favorite Singer Songwriters:
Joan Baez
Jim Croce
Bob Dylan
Bob Franke
Gordon Lightfoot
Carol McComb
Mickey Newbury
John Prine
Stan Rodgers
Kate Wolf