Today In Mountain Dulcimer History: 8 July 1895

A dose of mountain dulcimer history throughout the year

Today In Mountain Dulcimer History: 8 July 1895

Postby dbennett » Sat Jul 08, 2017 6:37 am

General Custer Nicholas (1895-1979) (his real name) was born and raised Calhoun County, West Virginia and moved to Ohio in the early 1960s where he died.

In the December/January 2009 issue of Reminisce Raymond Nicholas wrote, "In 1938, when I was 8 years old, we kids got the measles or mumps, and the whole family was quarantined. So my dad, General Custer Nicholas, went up the hill by our house along Holly River, in Clay, West Virginia, cut down a black walnut tree, picked out some good pieces and made a few dulcimers... My dad and I were invited to Columbus, Ohio for the state fair, in the early 1970s, to demonstrate the art of making dulcimers. We also recorded background music for an educational film called Wonderful World of Ohio, which showed how people lived years ago...”

General made at least eleven dulcimers.

From page 11 of the June 19, 1971 issue of The Daily Reporter from Dover, Ohio,(note: there were some OCR issues with the on-line version and I’ve tried to correct as little as possible)

“General Custer (that’s his real name) Nicholas learned to play the banjo when he was 12 and living in the mountains of West Virginia... he fell heir to his first dulcimore when his left handed brother could not learn to play it and gave it to him...

“The oldest dulcimore owned by the Nicholases came from the general’s wife’s family. A relative had died and left a dulcimore already cut out but unassembled. Her grandfather, Isaac brake (sic), of near Elkhurst, W. Va., glued the instrument together and learned to play it. “It’s way, way over 100 years old,” according to Mrs. (Hollie) Nicholas. Nicholas makes no secret of the fact that he attended school only through the third grade, but his natural talent and personality have filled in for the lack of formal education. He made his first two dulcimores... completed both of them in a week. He has made 11 in all, using walnut, maple and cherry for the body and necks, and poplar for the sides. Everything about the instrument is handmade except the strings. His sons, Raymond, 40, of Carrollton, and Arthur Lee, 38, …instruments and play along with their father, all are extremely proficient. According to Arthur Lee, it is a hobby in which the entire family participates.

“General said the very best picks are made from the No. 18 size spring from a pocket watch, but since those are hard to come by these days, the Nicholases make their own picks from plastic jugs...”
Nicholas General Custer.JPG
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