Today In Mountain Dulcimer History: 19 January 1975

A dose of mountain dulcimer history throughout the year

Today In Mountain Dulcimer History: 19 January 1975

Postby dbennett » Thu Jan 19, 2017 6:28 am

Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975) died of heart failure in his carriage-house studio at his home in Kansas City, Missouri, after completing his mural called “the Sources of Country Music" which he had completed sometime the previous evening. Benton was one of America’s best-known painters and muralists, noted for fluid, sculpted figures showing everyday people in scenes of life in the United States. His father, Maecenas Benton, was elected four times as U.S. congressman. Maecenas named his son after his own great-uncle, Thomas Hart Benton (1782–1858), one of the first two United States Senators elected from Missouri.

Benton was commissioned two years earlier in 1973 to paint a mural of early American folk music when Norman Worrell, director of the Tennessee Arts Commission, and Tex Ritter, the famed cowboy singer, visited him in Kansas City on behalf of Nashville’s Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Benton said, "The sources of country music-that's it...No one should be recognizable. It should show the roots of the music-the sources-before there were records and stars." Benton once said but this project, “I'd had considerable interest in folk music of the United States in various times in my life. So I didn't have to do any research-I knew all that stuff. The problem was merely to get it together, in my own mind, about how I could represent these things in the canvas.”

The six-by-ten-foot mural was to illustrate the origins of country music called “the Sources of Country Music”, showing as Benton said people in the middle of “actual folk singing”. One of the figures in the mural is a woman with a mountain dulcimer and that dulcimer depicted in the painting was Benton’s own dulcimer that he played. Benton completed his final review of the mural the night before he died and as a result even though the work is apparently completed, it was never signed. The mural is on permanent display at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville.

See the excellent 27 minute video about the history and making of the mural at

Thomas Hart Benton1 The Sources of Country Music.jpg
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Thomas Hart Benton4.jpg (26.24 KiB) Viewed 213 times

Thomas Hart Benton late-Victorian residence and carriage house studio in Kansas City is a state Historic Site and is worth the visit.

For copies of print

David Bennett <><
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