My last name is pronounced ‘Katz’. It makes sense if you know Polish.

Early days …
I grew up in the small upstate New York town of Ithaca, in a family where music was a constant presence. My mother could play three instruments — violin, cello and piano — and was an ardent voice student who sang wherever and whenever she could. Music, in the context of my family, meant ‘classical music’, which was virtually all I knew until I got to high school and found myself exposed for the first time to the rock ’n’ roll of the late 1950’s: Elvis, Pat Boone, Frankie Avalon, Bobby Rydell, Paul Anka and others.

Like all kids from middle-class families in those days, I took piano lessons, though I can’t say that I pursued my studies with any great dedication. But then, in 1961, as a college freshman in the Philadelphia area, I got my first serious exposure to folk music. I’d heard a little bit here and there, but now I found myself in the situation of being the only person I knew who couldn’t at least play a few guitar chords and sing ‘I Am A Lonely and A Lonesome Traveler’. In pure self-defense I picked up a guitar and began learning the basics. Then, just before Christmas, I went to a concert by the Weavers and underwent — as did many others under their influence — a life-altering transformation.

From that moment on folk music stopped being merely a recreational diversion and became a full-blown obsession. I spent every available moment seriously learning to play the guitar and banjo, and by the time I’d graduated I was performing professionally with the prospect of a real career before me.