"'Mountain Stage' was good enough to hire me back," he said, then added, "It's all good now. Deni and I are old friends."
Kessler stayed in Charleston for another three years before deciding to go to Seattle.
He didn't seem to have a firm plan, except to keep playing music.
"I didn't know what else to do but be a performer. So, I started playing in a couple of bands," he said. "I knew Terry Evans from 'Mountain Stage,' and went out on the road with him for a couple of months, but after a couple of months, I wasn't doing so well. I was struggling and working as a handyman, a trade I'd picked up along the way."
The turning point for Kessler was a disaster. He broke his right hand.
"They put it in a cast -- I couldn't be a carpenter. I couldn't play music," he said.
While struggling to make a living, he volunteered at a public radio station in Seattle, hosting a world music show once a week.
"The station manager must have known I needed help and told me they were hiring at the smooth-jazz station."
For eight months, Kessler worked from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. monitoring equipment. Then he spotted a newspaper ad asking for a part-time jazz and blues host.
Kessler said, "Hell, I could do that."
The radio station wanted an announcer to step in as the host of a well-regarded jazz and blues show, "All Blues," on one of the top-rated public radio stations in the country, KPLU.
"It's disproportionately popular for the station," he said. "And it was popular to begin with."
Kessler said he didn't start the show, but was proud to have been able to keep it going over the past 13 years.
"I won so many awards, I had to ask the local blues society to stop giving them to me," he said. "It wasn't fair. I was the only professional blues host around."
Kessler also branched out to work on other shows, including "Bird Note," a daily two-minute program about birds and nature, heard now on about 150 stations. Kessler also co-hosts "Record Bin Roulette," a weekly four-minute radio program syndicated on about 30 stations.
"And I've been a musician all along," he said.
He married a Seattle glass artist and found himself happily in the role of stepdad, though now the kids are grown.
"I guess I'm doing pretty good," he said.
Fiddle player Deni Bonet tends to bubble when she's happy and lately, Bonet has a lot to be happy about.
"I'm going to be playing with JD & The Straight Shot and opening for The Eagles," she said. "It's going to be very exciting -- I get to hear The Eagles."
She said she'd also be traveling by private jet -- possibly courtesy of The Eagles, but just as likely courtesy of James Dolan, front man for JD & The Straight Shot.
Aside from playing Southern-fried rock 'n' roll mixed with blues, Dolan's day job is president and CEO of Cablevision Systems and the executive chairman of the Madison Square Garden Co.
Bonet's getting the gig is a pretty lucky break since, she said, she came in as a replacement.
"I've had a lot of music to learn quickly," the fiddler added, not that she minded.
Bonet performed with "Mountain Stage" from its pilot show in 1983 until 1994 when she left for New York. In the years since, she has remarried and managed to piece together a respectable career working with everyone from Cyndi Lauper and Sarah McLachlan to Robyn Hitchcock and Pete Seeger.
She's also a solo artist. Her latest record, "It's All Good," was released in the U.S. in February and in Europe in May.
Europe has sort of embraced her, she said. About 60 radio stations over there are playing her song "One in a Million."
She said, "It's like those T-shirts that say, 'I'm big in Japan.' I'm big in Europe!"
A video of the song, released on YouTube, has garnered more than a 100,000 hits.
"It's just a crazy time for me," Bonet said.
Keeping in touch
Everyone keeps in some contact with their friends and former co-workers at "Mountain Stage," but some more than others.
Bonet has kept in touch with her Twister Sister bandmate, Julie Adams.
"I've been bugging her for years to come up to New York," Bonet said. "She and Josh came up a while back and Julie and I did this acoustic thing in the city. It was so much fun."
She also filled in last year for "Mountain Stage" bandleader Ron Sowell when he couldn't go to New York for a couple of shows with the Appalachian Children's Choir.
Bonet said he called her up and said, "Hey, Deni. Want to put together a bluegrass band?"
Bonet and the choir performed at Lincoln Center, at the United Nations building and then last summer, Bonet came to West Virginia and performed with the choir in Huntington.
Kessler has kept on good terms with "Mountain Stage," and hears from some of his old friends. On Aug. 23, he'll be joining some of those friends when the Putnam County Pickers play for Charleston's Live on the Levee series.
Wafer said he listens to the show on the Internet, and when the show came to Athens, Ga., last year, he visited the crew.
McSparin said she hears from Adam Harris and associate producer Jeff Shirley every now and then.
"The first year, I think I heard from them a half a dozen times. I guess we did a good job training them up for the job."
She also talks to piano player Bob Thompson every now and then, but her most frequent contact with her friends at "Mountain Stage" is drummer Ammed Solomon.
"He's my handyman," she chuckled.
Ridenour said he thinks it's a good thing they've all remained friendly. He hears from different people from the show at different times and tries to keep up with things without intruding.
"I probably talk to Adam half a dozen times a month," he said. "I talk to Larry all the time. Those are friendships we built over years."
"'Mountain Stage' at 30" is an occasional series. Reach Bill Lynch at ly...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.