A former horse trainer, a lawyer, a retail manager and an analyst with the U.S. Department of Education – together they form the King Street Bluegrass Band. Want to hear “Blue Moon of Kentucky," “The Salty Dog” and “The Dixie Pig," the latter written in memory of the former Route 1 restaurant? The band has jams every Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at Telegraph Station.
King Street Bluegrass, made of Alexandria-area residents, took its name after playing for tips along King Street near the Torpedo Factory in Old Town, Alexandria, for three years. “We may not be the best bluegrass band out there, but we give it all we got,” said mandolin/guitar player and fiddler Freddi Szilagi. “We like to make connections with people and interact with the crowd. When we play on King Street in the warmer months, we have seven, eight nine musicians out there.”
The players met at Frying Pan Park, the home to Bluegrass sessions every second Sunday of the month. “We were singing together before we spoke together,” said Szilagi. “And I like singing with them rather than talking with them any day. Just kidding.”
Szilagi is a retail manager at Goodwill Industries. “My mother is a classical singer and my father a classical pianist. I rebelled when I was 14 and discovered Delta Blues and then Bluegrass. I spent a lot of years playing records and about five years ago I started playing. It’s been a real blessing to find Nancy,” he said.
Guitarist/bassist Nancy Lisi trained horses at Rosecroft Raceway for 32 years (and her ex-husband, Arthur Lisi, was the musical director for 44 episodes of the Cosby Show). The proceeds from last Thursday’s gig at Telegraph Station went to charity. There were 110 cats that were living at the [Rosecroft] tracks that were going to be euthanized and I got involved with some of the people who are raising the cats and incurring expenses.”
Famed blues guitarist Robert Lockwood Jr. may have directly influenced Lisi “When I was real small, I was sent to Pennsylvania to be raised by my father’s brother. This black guy came through town and he was offering singles and my Aunt brought him in. I swear it was Robert Lockwood Jr. He played just like him. He stayed all evening and left the next day and I listened to those records until I wore them out,” she said.
Bassist James Hyler is a recent addition to the band. An analyst for the U.S. Department of Education, Hyler just left the Courtney Hollow Bluegrass band after 10 years.
Robert Swain plays banjo and guitar by night, and is a lawyer for the U.S. Department of Labor by day. “About four years ago, I was playing guitar and Nancy and Freddi needed a banjo player. I pretty much learned the instrument as we went along. I’m a whole lot better now,” he said. “Somebody once asked Earl Scruggs after he played Carnegie Hall: ‘Mr. Scruggs, how long did it take you to learn the banjo?’ and he replied, ‘I’m still learning it.’”