Springtime Playing Opportunities

The Athens Dulcimers has been invited to play on 13 May at the duck pond in Athens. We’ll let you know about the time closer to the event.

See you May 6th at the next jam!

David B <><

No Fooling

Don’t forget we are having our regular jam this Thursday, April 1st.

That got me thinking about April Fool’s Day.

First, I wanted to find some correlation with April Fool’s Day and dulcimers.

One thing I found was written by Maddie MacNeil in what she called the “April Fool’s issue” in the Spring 1989 issue of Dulcimer Players News:

“…A few of us could not resist the temptation of April Fool’s Day. Maybe Rose Hines mixed up all the dates for the year’s events. Maybe Lorraine Lee told you to finger a chord with your thumb on the bass string at the 3rd fret and your little finger on the 5th fret of the melody string…”

Next, I did some checking on April Fool’s Day history. Essentially it started in Europe in the 1500s. As you know April Fool’s Day is an annual custom on April 1st consisting of practical jokes and hoaxes. Jokesters often expose their actions by shouting “April Fools!” at the recipient.  At the end of this article, I’ve included some vintage April Fools images.

It was popular throughout Britain during the 1700s. In England on April 1, 1698, several people were tricked into going to the Tower of London to “see the Lions washed”.

In Ireland, it was traditional to entrust the victim with an “important letter” to be given to a named person. That person would read the letter, then ask the victim to take it to someone else, and so on. The letter when opened contained the words “send the fool further“.

In 1957, the BBC broadcast a film showing Swiss farmers picking freshly-grown spaghetti, in what they called the Swiss Spaghetti Harvest. The BBC was soon flooded with requests to purchase a spaghetti plant, forcing them to declare the film a hoax on the news the next day.

In Italy, France, Belgium and French-speaking areas of Switzerland and Canada, April 1st tradition is often known as “April fish”.  Perpetrators would attempt to attach a paper fish to the victim’s back without being noticed. Such fish are featured prominently on many late 19th- to early 20th-century French April Fools’ Day postcards.

Back in the late 1980s I once left a message/note for a co-worker to call Mr. Lyon and gave him the number of the St. Louis Zoo. Not terribly original, but it worked! I later found those phone calls to the Zoo were considered old-fashioned even 100 years ago, according to The Cincinnati Post on April 1, 1922 wrote:

There was nothing new in the way of April fool jokes Saturday except the boobs who fell for them. Avon 134, the Zoo telephone, was as busy with calls from persons who wished to talk to Mr. Baer, Mr. Wolf and Mr. Lyon as it was on the day the joke first came from the feeble mind that invented it.”

According to The Post, a lot of people also called the dog pound, asking for Mr. Barker.

Well, enough of all that. See ya at the jam!

David B <><

P.S. Hey Jerry! Your shoe is untied!!

P.P.S. Here’s the updated calendar of events (FYI no pranks here)


Click on each image to view whole picture

Springtime Updates

The weather for next week’s jam (4 March) is expected to be Spring-like.

A couple other items of note:

If you know of any dulcimer events (or old time music events) that need to be added to our calendar let me know.

The 48th Annual Southern Appalachian Dulcimer (SADA) Festival at Tannehill State Park is April 26-May 2nd.

2021 Tennessee Valley Old Time Fiddlers Convention Lineup
In addition to the annual competitions, the 2021 musical entertainment lineup includes:
Thursday, September 30: Volume Five https://www.volumefivebg.com/home
Friday, October 1: Jimmy Fortune and Dailey & Vincent
Saturday, October 2: Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver

David <><

January 4, 1926 The Nashville Banner

[Note: the quote marks around the word “dulcimore” was in the original article]

For a minstrel to come to France, land of the troubadour and the trouvère, with his ballads and his harp, almost seems like carrying coals to Newcastle, but France has been entertaining for the past year a Kentucky troubadour, writes L.P.H. in the Paris edition of the New York Harold. In fact, she has just honored him by a degree at the Sorbonne for introducing him to the French language the first important study of the American folk-song. The existence of American folk-lore and American folk-songs is a fact as little known to the average American as it is to most foreigners, but any one who has traveled in the Southern highlands of Kentucky and Tennessee knows that America not only has folk-songs, but that real minstrels still survive there.

Josiah H. Combs, the Kentucky mountaineer, born at Hindman and reared on the borderland of Kentucky and Tennessee, who has just been given a directorate at the Sorbonne for his study of “Folk-Songs du Midi des Etas-Unis,” is not only one of the principal authorities upon the folklore and songs of the Southern highlands, but a survivor of that fast-disappearing race of ancient bards and minstrels, now only to be found in the remote mountain countries, like Scotland, Wales and America, and ballads with a rare charm.
He sings to the music of an instrument of unknown origin, called in the Cumberland mountains the “dulcimore,” but quite distinct from the antique dulcimer of poetry and music. Some say the “dulcimore” is a native of the Vosges mountains in France, and there is one in the Metropolitan museum in New York labeled–incorrectly, it seems– “German zither,” but Mr. Combs in his extensive travels through Europe and in his researches has been unable to find the instrument anywhere except in the Southern mountains of the United States, and even there it is now very rarely found, being replaced with the modern minstrels by the fiddle or banjo. If the “dulcimore” is of Vosgian or German origin, how it found its way to Kentucky and Tennessee is an intriguing mystery, as the natives of the highlands are almost without exception of pure English origin, a fact proved in part by their folk songs.
Whatever the explanation may be, the “dulcimore” is well suited to accompany the Southern folk songs.
The music of the “dulcimore,” accompanied by the slow, drawn-out rhythm of the old ballads, many of which are still sung in the Southern Highlands is the language of Shakespeare, is sometimes wild and sometimes plaintive, but always weird and of an unfathomable fascination and charm. The “dulcimore” is the instrument par excellent for the old ballads, such as “Mary Hamilton,” which deals with the fate of one of the maids of honor at the court of Mary Queen of Scots, who was hanged for the murder of her child. Stanzas of this long ballad as sung in the Kentucky and Tennessee mountains are:

Word has gone to the kitchen,
And word has gone to the hall,
That Mary Hamilton has borne a child
To the highest Stuart of the all.
* * *
O little did my mother think,
The day she cradled me,
What lands I was to travel o’er,
What death I was to dee. [sic]
* * *
last night I washed the queen’s feet
And gently lay her down,
And all the thanks I’ve got this night
Is to be hanged in Edenbro town.

But the Southern Highlander is too clever a minstrel to be content with the songs of his ancestors. He has a pride in his art and a creative talent of his own. He may be looked down upon by the more prosperous and sophisticated members of his community as a disreputable and worthless character, but he clings to his “dulcimore,” fiddle or banjo, and despite the lofty attitude of some of his neighbors, his services are in demand. When he comes into a house, a frequent salutation is, “can you pick that thing?”
“Sure, I wouldn’t packer ‘er if I couldn’t pick ‘er,” replies the troubadour as he unslings his instrument and launches out into one of the old English songs– “Barbara Allen,” “Fair Margaret,” “Sweet William” or perhaps upon a Cumberland composition like “Sourwood Mountain,” stanzas of which runs as follows:

I’ve got a gal in the head o’ the hollar,
She won’t come nor I won’t foller.
Tum a yink tum a diddle un a day!
* * *
My gal she lives over in Letcher,
She won’t come and I won’t fetch ‘er.

Or the company might call for “Old Jo Clark” and the minstrel will sing:

I went down to old Jo Clark’s,
Jo Clark wasn’t at home.
I got in a fight with Jo Clark’s wife,
And broke her tuckin’ comb.

I went down to old Jo Clark’s,
Jo Clark wasn’t at home.
I eat up all of his ham meat
And throwed away the bone.
* * *
Or a moonshiner song:

I’ve been a moonshiner for eighteen long years,
I’ve spent all my money for whiskey and beer,
I buy my own whiskey, I make my own stew,
And if I get drunk, madam, it’s nothing to you.

And at the end he probably will wind up with one of the longer ballads, with a little quatrain or couplet like one of these:

What are we a’ goin’ to do with the baby-o,
Wrap him up in calico
And send him down to Georgy-o.
* * *
Beefsteak when I’m hungry,
Corn licker when I’m dry,
Pretty girl when I’m lonesome,
Sweet heaven when I die.
* * *

David B <><


50th Anniversary Smithville Fiddlers Jamboree

Another event to look forward to.

50th Anniversary Smithville Fiddlers Jamboree
July 2-3, 2021
Friday, July 2nd, 2021 Mountain Dulcimer Contest 1st-$125 · 2nd-$100 · 3rd-$75

Traditional style of playing with noter and pick is encouraged in keeping with the Appalachian theme of the contest, but not mandatory.

Emphasis will be on sound, rhythm, timing, tuning, and execution.

Chromatic dulcimers will not be allowed, however the 6 1/2 fret will be accepted.

Other 1/2 frets, such as the 1 1/2 fret, will not be allowed.

David B <><

Merry Christmas

After going through one humdinger of a year Karen thought I should repost the photos and videos from last years Athens Dulcimer Christmas activities:



Have you ever seen a pig dance?

Video: 2019 Athens Dulcimer Christmas Party

Looking forward to seeing everyone in 2021!!

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and God Bless Us Everyone!!

David B <><

Year End Note

The 10 December Jam has been cancelled. We’ll get cranked back up in January!

As Louise told me, “Everyone have a safe Christmas as you celebrate the birth of Jesus.”

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:8-11

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14

Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! John 1:29

She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. Matthew 1:21

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen. 1 Timothy 1:15-17

David B <><