Hughes Dulcimer Co. Dulcimer

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Hughes Dulcimer Co. Dulcimer

Postby jvlpog » Thu Feb 24, 2011 12:49 pm

I recently came into possession of a Hughes Dulcimer Co. (Denver, Co.) hourglass mountain dulcimer. The label inside indicates it was built in either 1973 or 1978, hard to make out the date clearly. It is a little different in that it only has one sound hole and it is located in the top of the hour glass. Anybody know anything about Hughes Dulcimer Co.?
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Re: Hughes Dulcimer Co. Dulcimer

Postby dholeton » Thu Feb 24, 2011 2:40 pm

JV
The Hughes Dulcimer Company was owned by Virgil Hughes in Denver. I'm not sure if the company is still in business. When I lived in Denver (1981-1997) I frequented the shop to visit with Virgil. He indicated he had traveled the Appalachians and other areas of the southeast collecting dulcimer history. He had lots of great stories to tell. One such story was in some communities 3-string dulcimers were signs of the 3 tines of the devil's pitchfork where in other communities 3-string dulcimers were related to the Trinity.

Attached are some pdf files of flyers from Virgil's shop. The shop produced just about anything from dulcimers to harps to harpsichords in completed or kit forms in its day. Virgil's mountain dulcimers seemed mostly designed to be tuned in G tunings like GDD. Some of his mountain dulcimers were available with a solid spruce top as an option, but most mountain dulcimers from Virgil's shop had plywood bodies and tops. Virgil also seemed to favor just one sound hole on his mountain dulcimers.

I remember borrowing about 5 or 6 dulcimers from Virgil's shop for a party at a friends house. We invited several people from church for a sing-a-long and combination dulcimer workshop. You should have seen some of their eyes light up when they came in and we handed them a dulcimer and told them to sit down! Of course they were all playing Down In The Valley in 5 minutes or so.

One of those dulcimers was a black hourglass dulcimer. I think I had seen more than one black hourglass dulcimer in Virgil's shop. One of Virgil's stories about painting dulcimers was that woodgrain was considered ugly in some traditions, so paint or other decorations to cover the woodgrain made the dulcimer more acceptable. They used any paint they may have had on hand (barn paint, house paint, any available color). One of the folks at the party liked the black dulcimer and purchased it from Virgil. All of the dulcimers from Virgil's shop at the time did not have a 6.5 fret unless it was requested as an option.

So, if your hourglass dulcimer has one sound hole and does not have a 6.5 fret, I suspect either it was built from a kit from Virgil's shop by someone who held true to Virgil's design or it was built in Virgil's shop.

Also, search on this sight for "Church Dulcimer" and you'll find other threads on Virgil's dulcimers (I obtained a Church Dulcimer kit from Virgil around 1980 and we had a discussion here about Church Dulcimers a month ago).

Thanks
Dave
Attachments
Hughes_Pamphlet_1995.pdf
1995 Flyer
(3.02 MiB) Downloaded 322 times
Hughes_Dulcimer_Co.pdf
Front of 1979 Flyer
(800.09 KiB) Downloaded 231 times
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Re: Hughes Dulcimer Co. Dulcimer

Postby jvlpog » Thu Feb 24, 2011 2:58 pm

Wow! "Ask and ye shall recieve!" That is a lot of information, Dave. Thanks so very much!!

The dulcimer does not have a 6 1/2 fret and the body does appear to be made from a thin plywood. It is stained real dark.

I got the duclimer from a man who bought it for it wife over 40 years ago. She never played it. It appears to me that the strings are the same strings that came with the instrument.

Ron
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Re: Hughes Dulcimer Co. Dulcimer

Postby dholeton » Thu Feb 24, 2011 3:02 pm

Ron
The regular mountain dulcimers from Virgil's shop didn't have a wound bass string. I think the high G tuning required an unwound bass string. If the bass string on your dulcimer isn't wound, the strings could be the original string set.

Dave
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Re: Hughes Dulcimer Co. Dulcimer

Postby jvlpog » Thu Feb 24, 2011 3:16 pm

Dave,

The bass string is an unwound steel string. BTW, I check closer on the plywood and it does look like a walnut veneer instead of a stain.

Ron
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Re: Hughes Dulcimer Co. Dulcimer

Postby dholeton » Thu Feb 24, 2011 3:59 pm

Ron
I'm reading the flyer from 1995 and the plywood hourglass dulcimers came in Walnut or Mahogany. They also came in 29" and 38" lengths. Is your dulcimer 29" from top to bottom or 38"?

Dave
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Re: Hughes Dulcimer Co. Dulcimer

Postby jvlpog » Thu Feb 24, 2011 5:46 pm

Dave,

It is just a little over 36" with the type peg head it has. The VSL is approx. 28 1/2".

Ron
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Re: Hughes Dulcimer Co. Dulcimer

Postby dholeton » Thu Feb 24, 2011 9:34 pm

Ron
I'm assuming your dulcimer is the H38 variety. I don't think I ever saw one of the smaller 29" hourglass dulcimers. You can use a string-set with a wound bass string (or maybe I should say I have used a string-set on a Hughes dulcimer with a wound bass string). There may be some bridge adjustments needed with a wound bass string but it depends on how you choose to tune it.
I called Virgil today and we had a great conversation. He remembered me and he sounds like he is in good health and very busy. He indicated he closed down the music instrument shop in the last year or so because he was just too busy doing other things. He indicated he had been leading the music instrument shop for 40 years.

Thanks
Dave
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Re: Hughes Dulcimer Co. Dulcimer

Postby HughesDulcimer » Wed Dec 28, 2011 3:38 pm

Just thought I would chime in! Virgil and Norman have retired from makeing Dulcimers ..But I am happy to say that I have taken over and I am strating up the Hughes line again with the help of Norman Hughes! So if you have any questions about Hughes Dulcimers I would be to pass them on to Virgil and get a good answer!
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Re: Hughes Dulcimer Co. Dulcimer

Postby KenH » Wed Dec 28, 2011 5:26 pm

So tell us about your plans. And your name, please!

Are you going to be making veneer instruments or solid wood, or both? Price ranges? Styles? My first instrument, back in 1973 or so was a Hughes kit that I assembled so I could teach myself to play. At the time I was living up in Fort Collins and attending CSU.
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Re: Hughes Dulcimer Co. Dulcimer

Postby jvlpog » Wed Dec 28, 2011 5:33 pm

I do have one question that's been bugging me: why is there only one sound hole and why is it at the top of the dulcimer?

Thanks,
Ron
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Re: Hughes Dulcimer Co. Dulcimer

Postby HughesDulcimer » Wed Dec 28, 2011 9:11 pm

jvlpog wrote:I do have one question that's been bugging me: why is there only one sound hole and why is it at the top of the dulcimer?

Thanks,
Ron

Hey Ron ! What Virgil told me was that the one sound hole was sort of a Hughes signature if you will ..The story I was also told was that Virgil and Norman both liked the way single sound hole sounded..I have a few in the shop that have 4 sounds holes ..but most just have the one
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