Nothing Says Appalachian Like Rhinestones

In case you missed it, Dolly Parton’s gold painted Swarovski crystal studded dulcimer is going to be auctioned off by Christie’s auction house for charity. This on-line auction is expecting to bring between $50,000-$100,000. My guess is this’ll be the costliest dulcimer ever.

Rumor has it that Al M. has been seen going through his house looking for spare change under all the seat cushions and pants pockets.

Some of the details from the press release:

  • Auction to benefit ACM Lifting Lives® COVID-19 Response Fund
  • This four-string dulcimer was owned by Dolly Parton for 30 years and is accompanied by its original stand and used by the artist as she celebrated her 50th Anniversary performing at the Grand Ole Opry in 2019.
  • Dolly Parton commented, “…It was important to donate the dulcimer that was designed for my 50th Opry Anniversary so we can raise awareness and much needed funds to keep these folks on their feet before we can open the doors to our stages once again.”
  • The Appalachian dulcimer is a cornerstone to the sound of Country music, and one that Country Music Hall of Famer Dolly Parton has used throughout her career.

David B <><

Back Together Again!!

After about six months Athens Dulcimers met last evening for our regularly scheduled jam!! And, as icing on the cake, we met in the new Athens Recreation Center. The new rec center is very nice (did I mention new?) with excellent acoustics.

The first song we played was “Wild Wood Flower”. There were thirteen of us that met and played and even with the masks it was wonderful to get back to some semblance of normalcy. And we weren’t “too” rusty in our playing, there is a knack to playing with others.

Here’s a short video of last night’s event:

Click on photo for larger image:

We hope to see another good crowd on 17 September.

Don’t forget that Tannehill SADA festival is next week and promises to be a good time (I believe it’s all outside).

The day before yesterday Jimmy Biggs, Al Maiorano, Jerry and Louise Todd, and David played outside for the residents at Traditions of Athens Assisted Living to another appreciative audience.

We missed those who couldn’t be there last evening and look forward to the time when everyone can come out and play!! In the meantime there is NO reason why you shouldn’t play your dulcimer today (in fact, do it right now!!), you’ll feel better if you do, I promise.

David B <><

Instructions for 3 September Jam

We will be meeting 3 Sept at the NEW Rec Ctr new location with the guidelines listed below:

New location: Athens Recreation Center, 21821 Sportsplex Loop, Athens, AL 35611

The turn to the Rec Center is the Elm St. traffic light (the second after the 251/31 light). It goes straight into the Sportsplex.

Upon entry:

  • You must wear your mask.
  • At the door you will get your temperature checked.
  • The go right to the Community Room.

We have the room from 6:30-830 p.m. and need to adhere to that time give or take ten minutes.

PS: Today is Play Music On Your Porch Day!!

David B <><

Nine-Foot (+) Dulcimer

Master Mawhee

by David Bennett                                 August 28, 2020

My good friend Dan Cox, aka Dulcimore Dan, from New Tazewell, Tennessee began making dulcimores in 2012. The dulcimores Dan makes are traditional in that he only uses a diatonic fretboard (no extra frets) and uses the fundamental building techniques and designs of the old masters while still incorporating his own special touches. Dan’s latest dulcimore that he calls Master Mawhee is based on an old-time dulcimer maker from the late 1800s named John Mawhee (1844-1929).

John Mawhee was a Cherokee Indian from the Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) who served in the Union Army during the Civil War as a member of the Indian Home Guard. He was an accomplished fiddle player and luthier before the war. It is not known where Mawhee first encountered the dulcimer, but it is said it was while in the Army that he devised the pattern for his dulcimer. He called his dulcimer a “walking cane dulcimer” as did four plus generations after him. The story goes that during the war his horse fell on him breaking his leg which was never set right causing one leg to be shorter than the other. To steady his gait Mawhee incorporated a handle at the top of his instrument and placed a large nail at the bottom, creating a cane. After the war he settled in southern Missouri.

Now back to Dulcimore Dan’s instrument. This particular instrument Dan built, while partiality patterned on John Hawhee’s dulcimore, is not traditional in one small detail, it is over nine feet long!

When asked what led him to build an instrument on such a largescale, Dan told me, “…COVID-19 has everything shut down. In five months I’ve been to the grocery and hardware store. I go to work every day (medical supply) like nothing is going on and this is what I do for excitement! … and I wanted to see if I could even do it….”

Much of the wood Dan used was wood he re-claimed from various sources. Dan began construction with the peg head using pine 1X4s from salvaged pallets that he laminated.

Then he made the tail piece from three laminated pieces of very old heart pine. Said Dan, “I selected the heart pine for strength seeing it would be anchoring a number 18 and two number 8 music wire pulled up as high as they can go.” The string anchors are two one-quarter inch bolts cut off and the ends rounded.

Next is the staple board made from two spruce 1X4X8s that he obtained from the local hardware store.

The side bows are one-eighth inch shipping plywood he salvaged from work.

Dan makes his own dulcimore strings for his instruments and the Master Mawhee were no exception. Dan explained, “I thought I’d have to make up a wire twisting tool but I tried to make a loop end with the tool I have and it worked fine! I made up a string and strung the melody string. I pulled the string to what I thought the tension should be and then made another two strings. I strung them and continued to raise the tension on the bass string until I got to an A1. (It was just a little tense seeing I didn’t know if this thing would hold just under 200 lbs. of tension!)  I made a staple placement tool and it worked wonderfully! I marked the staples and quickly played Shady Grove on the upper registry… I pulled the .041 bass string to A1. The melody and middle drone are .020 and tuned to E2.”

This diatonic instrument is 9 feet and one-quarter inch long and weighs 28 pounds. It has an 89-inch VSL and seventeen .090 staples set by ear. The homemade strings are .041 bass and .020 middle drone/melody. The dulcimore is tuned A1, E2 and E2 Ionian. Dan finished the instrument with black alcohol stain and shellac finish.

Dan says clearly building something to this scale requires a lot of thinking, ingenuity, and constant tinkering, “I’m in the process of figuring out the dynamics of the Mawhee set up. Taking a large string (.020) and drawing it up tight (over 50 lbs.) gives it a quick, clear tone. The machine tuners make it possible seeing, the wooden pegs could never draw up that tight.”

When asked what his next project is Dan replied, “What I’m really after is a 33-inch VSL, very light and loud and it’s called Majestic…”

Hear Dan play Simple Gifts on his Master Mawhee at

You can find more specifics on how Dan crafted this dulcimer on his blog at

Click on image for larger view


David Bennett <><

Woo Hoo!! Great News!!

Louise told me that will resume playing at the Rec Center in September. We will have the same dates and time.

To make it even better we will be meeting at the NEW Athens Recreation Center (Sportsplex) at 21821 Sportsplex Loop, Athens, AL 35611

Masks and social distancing will be required

I can’t wait to see how great we all sound now that we’ve had nearly six months to practice!!

David B <><

Getting Out & Playing

Yesterday (8/18) Louise, Jerry, Roger Patterson, and David Bennett played for the residents of Traditions in Athens. We probably had twenty in the audience. A good time was had by all.

Others getting out and playing dulcimers did so August 9-15 at the Camp and Jam at Trace State Park, Pontotoc, Mississippi. I’m including some photos sue Smith put on FaceBook.

The last Saturday, August 29, is Play Music On Your Porch Day. Get out and play your dulcimer for your neighbors, who knows, maybe you’ll recruit some new players!

One last thing, don’t forget to check our schedule at

Click on photos for larger image

PS If you look closely in the second to last photo you can see Sally in the window.

David B <><

Odds and Ends

No dulcimer jam this week. ‘Nuff said.
Update: The Athens Dulcimer video Camptown Races is up to 821,605 hits. We need Preston to hit reload 178,395 more time to top a million hits…
Play Music On The Porch Day is coming up next month (yeah I know you can play on your porch any time you want but it’s still a neat idea playing on a set date worldwide).

Play Music On The Porch Day 29 August 2020 (It is always the last Saturday of August) invites musicians/communities to revive the tradition of gathering, singing and playing music outside with friends and family.

In 2018 thousands of musicians from at least 70 countries and over 700 cities participated and the movement continues to grow every day. Musicians from across the globe, regardless of their differences, are finding common ground through music.

You don’t have to register to participate but if you want to go to

While most of you already know how to play Angelina Baker I am just now getting around to learning it. Here’s a video of Louise playing it and attached are the tabs she wrote for me (they have been simplified so I can play it).

Louise Todd playing the tune

And remember, as Briscoe Darling use t say on The Andy Griffith Show when asked by Andy if he had time to play a tune, “Ya got time to breath, ya got time for music.”

David B <><

July 2020

No surprise… no dulcimers at the Rec Ctr tomorrow but don’t let that stop you from playing.

In the meantime here’s some dulcimer history

Today In Mountain Dulcimer History: JULY 


Have a great old fashioned Independence Day!!


David B <><