Like to hear well-crafted arrangements, tight harmonies, and old school brother duet music? You will LOVE the Skally Line.

 Where’d The Name Come From?

The Skally Line railroad connected St. Paul and Duluth Minnesota. Begun in 1877, The St. Paul and Duluth Railroad company’s only line ran along what is now Highway 61. Branches led out to smaller communities and the line existed in one form or another until the 1970’s. During its heyday, the Skally Line traveled through towns and cities, farmland and wilderness, and represented a future that never came to be for the East Central part of Minnesota. Paper towns and ghost towns rose and faded quickly but the bones of the line still dot the country, little bits of nearly forgotten history and dreams that might have been. We stoke the boilers on this old line and make it highball the jack again.

Climb On Board Folks and Don’t Be Slow!

The Skally Line brings a passion for old country music, fiddle tunes, blues, ballads, and gospel. We also write music with an especial focus on Minnesota stories and themes and both of us enjoy tight arrangements that put the sizzle on each piece of musical steak. Primarily guitar and mandolin–but recently adding a clawhammer banjo option! –you’ll also hear a little fiddle playing from Tom and, if you ask nice, Fred gets the Commodium out and we’ll play some Papa Charlie Jackson or Ishman Bracey for you. Mostly what we do is have more fun than humans should be allowed to have. 

The Skally Line most often features the core duet of Fred and Tom, but because we play all sorts of different shows–from teaching in schools to barn dances to everything in between–we have a group of folks we call to help out!

Fred Keller

fred(Mandolins) I’ve played music professionally for two decades. I’ve learned from some of the best mandolin players around, including master classes with the renowned Mike Compton. I played my first gig solo at Minnesota’s renowned Renaissance Festival which led to a series of Irish bands: Turmeric, The Lilting Banshees, and finally The Banshees. I co-founded the respected eclectic acoustic trio Catskinner with Chris Jones and guitarist Matt Fox. After one year with Minnesota’s Blue Drifters bluegrass band, I founded–with Joel Olson, Chris Jones and Ross Willits–the Whistlepigs String Band. The ‘Pigs played for eight strong years, released two albums (including the award-winning Fenceline title), traveled five states and Saskatchewan, and had a hell of a great run before hanging it up in 2009. Since then, I’ve worked with well over a dozen players, taught lessons and played a lot of solo shows too. I’m ecstatic to don the engineer’s cap on this wonderful new project.

Tom Cornish

tom(guitar and fiddle) A native of New York, Tom has been a part of the Twin Cities music scene since the late 1970’s. He performed as a guitarist and vocalist for nearly two decades with the bluegrass-influenced acoustic groups the Jugsluggers and then Studebaker Hawk. In the early 1990’s he began concentrating his efforts on electric guitar, performing in numerous original and cover rock bands including Looking for Mom, Audio Savant and CPR. He still performs with CPR today. Recent years have seen Tom returning to his acoustic roots on board The Skally Line.

Rob Daves

Rob for Web

(clawhammer banjo)  Rob Daves is a Twin Cities banjo player who specializes in old time Appalachian and Midwest string band music.  He hails from North Carolina where he grew up listening to old time bands on Charlotte radio and TV in the 1950s.  He took up the banjo during the early 1980s while some of the older traditional musicians in the South were still teaching their fiddle, ballad and string band music to young fogies like himself. Rob has played for the Wild Goose Chase Cloggers in the Twin Cities for nearly a decade, performing in the Upper Midwest internationally.  He teaches clawhammer banjo at Blackbird Music in Minneapolis and currently plays with The Gritpickers Oldtime String Band. 
Bob Douglas, Musician and Dance Caller.  Texas-born Bob Douglas has lived in Minnesota since his college days. During that time, he worked with acoustic ensembles and jug bands, performing at coffeehouses on Minneapolis’s fabled West Bank. Music became a full-time vocation in Germany when he teamed up with a Canadian group called The String Band, completing three European tours and two recording projects. In the early years of A Prairie Home Companion, Bob did mandolin duties, sang harmony, and played spoons on the show with the Powdermilk Biscuit Band and the New Prairie Ramblers. Recently retired from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, he currently performs with the Blood Washed Band, the Show’d Up Band, and the Tune Jerks.

Mark Boggie, fiddle

Mark lives in Two Harbors and has led the Sir Benedict’s Thursday night jam for decades. He played with and toured Europe with The Wild Goose Chase Cloggers in 1995-1996, anchored many a north country dance band (most recently McInnis’ Kitchen), and comes from “a tradition of Appalachian fiddle music (with) strong influences in New England and Sligo fiddle styles.” If you bring him an accordion and some vodka, he might also be able to play you a Russian tune or two.


Mike Chew, Banjo.  Mike and I played together for about a year or two in a band called Bohemian Flats. Mike’s about the most fun guy I’ve ever played with on stage. He picks guitar and banjo and he’s also one of our finest up-and-coming banjo builders. Based in Minneapolis, Mike’s been selling his work all over the country for the past few years.


Walt Burns, Guitar.  Walt, from Norfolk, Virginia originally, is relatively new to the Twin Cities music scene. A veteran of numerous bluegrass bands down south and out west in Montana (recently Jawbone Railroad), Walt enjoys the energy and power of the real early stringbands, both blues and country. Walt shares my love of pre-war stringband music and I’m excited to get to play with him.