1970s Folkcraft Dulcimer
March 17, 2023
Good Morning, Y'all - Happy Friday!
It is starting to get warmer here. It's been in the 50s a few times this week, and barely below freezing - even at night. Is that a sure sign that dulcimer festivals will soon be moving north for the summer? Probably!
Last week I asked for photos/stories of your oldest still-in-use dulcimers, and here's the "winner!" Thanks to John for the submission. Here's a photo his dulcimer, and below it is what he had to say about it:
"My oldest dulcimer is one I built from a Hughes kit back around 1979. It's a "church" dulcimer with two extra drone strings, evidently intended to provide more volume when played during church services. I don't play it much now, but it was a featured instrument at a jam I held in my home on New Year's Eve.
I replaced the plywood soundboard with a spruce one about 30 years ago and hollowed out the fretboard at the same time. Which vastly improved the sound. I also furnished it with an "It" pickup (remember those?) but now I just use a clip-on microphone when I need to amplify it."
I think it is interesting that our oldest dulcimer submission was only 44 years old. I know a LOT of you have older dulcimers than that. I do, too. But my favorites to play are - of course - the modern dulcimers with the latest refinements in tone, intonation, and overall playability. And pickups!
John's dulcimer (from a Hughes kit) has an interesting tie-in with Folkcraft. Virgil Hughes (of Hughes Dulcimer fame) was touring the USA in the early 1970s, demonstrating dulcimers wherever he could find an audience. He performed, proselytized, and sold dulcimer kits to anyone that was interested. One of his performances was for a school district in Lyndon, Vermont, where Folkcraft founder David Marks was the music supervisor. David heard Virgil play, bought a kit, and soon started making his own (much nicer) dulcimers in his Vermont garage. David ended up leaving the teaching profession, starting Folkcraft Instruments, and becoming a world-renowned instrument builder.
So, there's the tie-in between Hughes and Folkcraft. Thank you, John (the winner of our "oldest dulcimer competition") for sharing your instrument with us all!
On another note, I've been hard at work adding new music books to the DulcimerDownloads.com website. All of Don Pedi's books are now downloadable, plus a whole slew of other new titles from Larry Conger, Elwood Donnelly, and more. Check out this week's featured download (it just came out late last month) from Melanie Johnston. Arrangements of Jay Ungar & Molly Mason tunes - Jay's the guy who wrote Ashokan Farewell. Good stuff, for sure.
Thank you all for reading - I hope you have a dulcimer-filled weekend!
Richard Ash, luthier-who's-walked-through-Vermont-but-never-driven-a-car-there