Anne Grimes Book

Share tidbits of dulcimer history, or history of the songs we play on them

Re: Anne Grimes Book

Postby Robin T » Sun Aug 29, 2010 7:50 pm

Dennis,
Were you aware of any dulcimer tradition in the Athens area?
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Re: Anne Grimes Book

Postby Dennis Dorogi » Sun Aug 29, 2010 10:25 pm

Not directly. One of my students at the time saw the dulcimer that I had made and said her Grandmother had one. I don't remember where her Grandmother was from but it was close to the Athens area. She brought it to me. It was in poor condition but I restored it to a playable instrument. It was probably from the Huntington, W. Va area. It was the basis for my T (traditional) model design. I liked folk art as it influenced my sculpture and instrument making. The first instruments I made based on this instrument were crude like the original instrument. I found that I was being dishonest to myself by doing this as I was a fairly accomplished woodworker. I then refined the instrument, and it was and is a very fine sounding instrument - it sounds better than it should.

The original instrument was all poplar with walnut pegs. This was the first original dulcimer that I had seen, and I do believe it came from the Huntington, W.Va. maker. It was the same design. It was not signed or dated - not that I remember.

Dana Vibberts from the Worthington,Ohio area was working on his MFA in photography at this time. He had a radio program about folk music well before folk music was popular and was a talented performer. He knew Ann Grimes well. I built an instrument for him based on the Huntington instrument. He played extremely well and won the Roscoe Village dulcimer contests many times. I added extra half frets to his instrument known as "Vibberts frets" and later on many of his students would order instruments from me with these frets.

I did not know of any dulcimer players in the Athens area other than the revival players. As a matter of fact there were very few traditional players of any instrument in the area at this time (1959-1960). Of course, I could be wrong as the college and the locals were somewhat separated, but we did make an attempt to know any local musicians. But no lap dulcimer players. Now when I moved to the Brocton, N.Y. area there were traditional hammered dulcimer players. The Van Arsdales. That is another story.
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Re: Anne Grimes Book

Postby Ron Chacey » Mon Aug 30, 2010 7:00 pm

I have finally gotten logged in to the discussion, and look forward to sharing information. I have just about runout of time today, and will hopefully get back soon. Life is very busy here in Pagosa Springs Colorado, where I moved to 16 years ago.
I built dulcimers in Athens County, Ohio for over a decade - perhaps about 100 of them, including some dulcimer kits. At that time, there was very little market for them, and I shifted to building and decorating banjos, all of which I have be doing since 1963 as my primary source of income.
Metal engraving, inlay work and engraving of metal and wood parts, as well as engraving of inlays have been my main activity, which I continue to work on, even though I am over 70 years old. My main customer is Ome Banjos, for whom I do most of their engraved inlays and their incised carving of resonators.
As I have not advertized for over 40 years, there is not much public record, and now the amount of work has decreased, which is good, as time in the garden and on the ski slopes always becons to me.
It is great to hear from Dennis Dorogi, and I will be back soon to talk about Anne Grimes and dulcimers.
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Re: Anne Grimes Book

Postby Banjimer » Mon Aug 30, 2010 7:57 pm

Ron,

Welcome to the discussion. I'm glad you were finally able to navigate through the registration process so you can participate in the discussion. To get started, I have a few questions.

Where, when, and under what circumstances did you first become aware of the mountain dulcimer?
Did you model your dulcimers after one you had seen somewhere else?
How did you end up making Anne Grimes' performance dulcimer?
Although there was only a small market for dulcimers, who was purchasing them? Students at Ohio University?
How did you market them?

Thanks again for joining our discussion.

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Re: Anne Grimes Book

Postby Robin T » Mon Aug 30, 2010 9:02 pm

Great questions, Greg!

Thanks for jumping in, Ron! I'd also like to ask whether you were aware of any local dulcimer tradition in the Athens County area?

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Re: Anne Grimes Book

Postby kwl » Mon Aug 30, 2010 10:01 pm

Dennis, do you think the dulcimer you say was made by the Huntington maker was by Charles N. Prichard? I am working on building a reproduction of his dulcimers. The instruments of his that I have seen were made of poplar and painted.
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Re: Anne Grimes Book

Postby Dennis Dorogi » Tue Aug 31, 2010 1:47 pm

Hello Ron - long time no see- like 50 years. Nice to hear from you again.

KWL: The instrument that my student had was not signed in any obvious way. It fits the profile of the Huntington, W. Va instruments. I don't believe the instrument was painted but in those days the first thing you did was strip off the finish to get down to the "beautiful wood grain". I don't think I would have done that as I was interested in polychromed sculpture and anything painted. I think it was just dirty poplar. The signature of the instrument was and is its form, and from this I believe it fits in with the Huntington area instruments. However, I noticed one difference from the majority of those instruments. The hearts in most of the Huntington instruments were very symmetrical and relatively well crafted. See No. E33 in L.Allen Smith's book. However, the instrument that belonged to my student had the hearts obviously cut out by a knife like instrument E35 which the book says is a copy of one of the Huntington instruments. The rest of the instrument looked like Figure 80 (No 59) in Ralph Lee Smith's book. The fingerboard and scroll are an excellent match (but not the soundholes). They are too "perfect". It seems the instrument that I worked on did not exactly fit the other Huntington instruments - but why should it? Was there only one Huntington maker? Did he employ other workers? Or like now, did someone copy the instrument to the best of their ability. We know one was copied and I copied a few more.

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Re: Anne Grimes Book

Postby kwl » Tue Aug 31, 2010 6:48 pm

Thanks for your reply Dennis. It could indeed be a copy of a C. N. Prichard dulcimer. I know many folks make copies of other people's work including myself at Ralph's encouraging. The first mountain dulcimer I made had a similarity to the Prichard dulcimer in that it had elongated shoulders rather than rounded at the peg head end. The plans I used were drawn by Joseph Wallo in Washington, DC.

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Re: Anne Grimes Book

Postby Ron Chacey » Thu Sep 09, 2010 11:58 pm

Sorry to took so long getting back - I am not used to communicating this way.

To answer Greg's questions, and I hope that I don't ramble on too long.

I returned to Columbus Ohio from a stint in the Navy and a 6 month recovery in Mexico in 1963, and got together with Kix Stewart, who I had gone to school with in high school in Worthington, Ohio and at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. Kix was making mountian dulcimers and banjo necks in his basement. This was after Kix and Dennis had been into dulcimers in Athens, Ohio a year or two before. I had never heard of a dulcimer, but as I was hanging out with Kix and his friends, I became interested in them as something that I could do. I didn't have any idea what I really wanted to do, but I could see that I would be better at building them than Kix was. He wasn't patient enough. The early dulcimers were made by cutting saw kerfs in the 1/8 inch side wood so that they could be easily bent into a rough form. Then we would glue them to the top and back using the weight of cases of beer for clamps - very crude, but it worked.

My first dulcimer, which I still have, was made out of cherry and was a very long tear drop design that I designed without much input from any other dulcimers. Eventually, I set up my own shop at home in Worthington, Ohio to build 3 more traditional hour glass shaped dulcimers, a rosewood guitar that was patterned after a OO Martin, and a banjo that had a rim made from an automobile breakdrum that was turned down on a lathe. My intent was to learn how to play them and go to California, thinking I could impress the girls - I was 23 at the time, with not much money. I went to California, but found out that I wasn't a musician and that I did not impress the girls. So, I moved back to Athens, Ohio - out in the country, and set up a better shop to build dulcimers and banjo necks for 4 string to 5 string conversions.

Kix Stewart had gone and worked at Ode Banjo in Boulder, CO, and when he returned, he and I set up shop together for a short time. Kix found a lot of jobs building banjo necks, but he couldn't seem to complete them. So I took over the jobs using techniques that he had learned at Ode, and was on my way to the profession that I have followed ever since. I did go back to Ohio University and ended up with an MFA in Ceramics and Sculpture on the GI bill - all the while supporting myself building and decorating instruments.

Kix took me to visit Anne Grimes, and I photographed and measured a lot of her instruments. I visited her several times, and took some of my dulcimers for her to see and play. I guess she liked them, as she asked me to build her a copy of her favorite boat shaped dulcimer so that she would have a new one to play and to preserve her old one. At some point during this time, I also was asked to do a week long demonstration of dulcimer building at the Ohio State Fair, in the entrance hall to the Arts and Crafts display.

I really don't remember who was buying my dulcimers, and I built about 100 of them over a 5 to 10 year period. I know a lot of friends bought them and others bought them by word of mouth. I never really did any advertising. I developed a production line of building several at once, and ended up with about 20 unfinished dulcimers that I sold cheap as kits when my wife and I decided to leave the country for a few years.

With the banjos, I was making more income, so I finally focused only on that. Eventually I even stopped building banjos and focused on only doing decorations for other builders - metal engraving, inlays, and wood carving.

Robin T., I am sorry, but I am not much of an historian, and I have no memory of any dulcimer tradition other than my friends building them and Anne Grimes' collection. I used ideas that I got from seeing Anne's dulcimer and others, but I tended to develop them into my own ideas of shape and decoration, as well as develop my own ways of construction. I have never kept track of from where or what I developed my own dulcimers.

If there had been as much interest in the mountain dulcimer 50 years ago as there is today, perhaps I would have continued building them for a longer period of time. Decorating banjos has been far more profitable than dulcimers were for me. Having just turned 70, I continue to do decorative work for several companies and expect to continue for perhaps another decade.

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Re: Anne Grimes Book

Postby Robin T » Fri Sep 10, 2010 11:38 am

Ron, many thanks for the post! Ohio has come to be something of a hotbed for mountain dulcimers and it's fascinating to read stories such as yours that point to how this has come to be.
all good wishes,
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Re: Anne Grimes Book

Postby Banjimer » Fri Sep 10, 2010 1:57 pm

Ron,

Thank you for joining us in the discussion of Anne's book. I found your reflections on the 1960's dulcimer scene in Athens very interesting. I never realized that Kix was also building dulcimers.

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Re: Anne Grimes Book

Postby Ron Chacey » Fri Sep 10, 2010 11:29 pm

Greg,
As Dennis mentioned, probably the most interesting part of Kix Stewart's dulcimers was that he had found some very thick and wide wooden yard sticks at Melvin Dunfee's general store in Stewart, Ohio. They were about 1/8 to 3/16 inches thick and about 1 1/2 inches wide. These were quite old, just like everything else in Melvin's store. Kix used two yard sticks per dulcimer. He cut saw kerfs in one side of the yard sticks so that he could bend them to use as sides for dulcimers. The yard stick printing was left intact, with the inches on one side of the dulcimer and Melvin's name and address on the other side. I wish I had one of them. The yard sticks were produced by Melvin many decades before to sell in his store. He even had food in his store that was decades old.
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