Grady Swanner, a local mountain dulcimer maker and mentor, has made a mountain dulcimer entirely of pine from wood that is a hundred years old or older from the Nebo Community Church located on Nuclear Plant Road in Athens, Alabama.
The building was moved from its original location about two miles away in 1912 and the Nebo Community Church celebrated its homecoming Centennial on September 9th, 2012 to commemorate the move to its present location.
Though the church celebrated its 100th anniversary at its current location, the church body was originally established in 1815, two years before Alabama became a territory and four years before statehood and the same year that General Andrew Jackson defeated the British at the Battle of New Orleans. The church hopes to have a 200th anniversary celebration in 2015.
Grady has been attending the Nebo Community Church for sixty-three years and said when the church was being remodeled this past winter he wanted something from the church as a keepsake. When the old windows were replaced Grady took a pine scrap board that was part of the window trim that was being removed and made the mountain dulcimer you see below. Grady made this dulcimer this September 2012.
This particular mountain dulcimer is the 53rd dulcimer Grady has made. He made his first mountain dulcimer about four or five years ago.
Being a fine craftsman and excellent player one might think Grady was raised playing the mountain dulcimer. But the truth is he first became acquainted with the mountain dulcimer while on a camping trip at the Tannehill State Park in Alabama in the spring of 2003 where he ran across the Tannehill Dulcimer Festival. Grady learned and perfected his mountain dulcimer playing skills with the help of Ray Hunley and Roger Patterson when the Athens Dulcimer group first got together October 2003. He does not remember ever seeing a mountain dulcimer before that time.
Besides the regular Thursday night jams the first and third Thursdays at the Athens Recreation Center, Grady plays at nursing homes, churches, camping trips, and the Owens Community Center. Grady and other mountain dulcimer players he is mentoring meet at the Owens Community Center most Mondays from 1 to 3 p.m., everyone is welcome.
While Grady does not give “lessons” he is always happy to help anyone get started or improve their mountain dulcimer playing technique. If you are ever fortunate to meet Grady, ask him to play his favorite tune, “Old Joe Clark”.
As always click on each image for a larger photo.