by David Bennett
A few weeks ago when we attended the Summertown Bluegrass Reunion in Tennessee a vendor had a table full of fiddles. One item was different and so caught my eye (see photos below). I asked the vendor what it was and he didn’t know. I remarked to him that it looked like a mountain dulcimer though he didn’t seem to know what a mountain dulcimer was. I inquired what he wanted for the item and he said $40. I didn’t buy it but latter I “almost” wished I’d bought it.
That evening I looked on EBay and someone had the same type of item, also for $40, but this time if I bought it I also be out the price of postage so again I passed.’’ That one did not sell.
A few days later I looked on EBay and someone else had another one for sale, asking $10. They erroneously called it a “plank guitar”, as did others on EBay, though the box doesn’t call it a guitar at all. Figuring $10 plus postage was reasonable for a curiosity I bid on it and won.
Here’s the Ebay description of the item I bid on:
“This is a vintage Tut Taylor creation “HEE HAW”, Yongestreet Productions wooden PLANK hillbilly musical instrument. Plank measures 24″ long x 3 1/2″ across, is three stringed, made of wood. It is stamped with the trademark Mule and the “Hee Haw” logo, dated 1976, & also is a Tut Taylor creation. This guitar was once used by blind students at the Tennessee School for the Blind.”
I e-mailed Tut and he replied back confirming that the item is indeed a dulcimer and that I should tune all three strings the same (the box says to G).
Mr. Taylor also told me, “This was my creation sold by a company in Tenn. They were played on Hee Haw by Roy Clark and Junior Samples.”
I have received the item and it plays about like a $10 dulcimer, a bit tinny, but it does play. I mostly bought it for the curiosity factor anyway and am glad I did.
I looked up Tut Taylor, “The Flat Picking Dobro Man”, on the Internet and learned he was once “a repairman at Gruen’s Guitars in Nashville (probably the world’s premiere vintage guitar shop) and now builds some of the best resonator guitars around.”
I also found this about him:
Tut Taylor (born November 20, 1923) is an American bluegrass musician.
Taylor played banjo and mandolin as a child, and began playing dobro at age 14, learning to use the instrument with a distinctive flat-picking style. Taylor was a member of The Folkswingers in the 1960s, who released three LPs; he recorded his debut solo effort in 1964. Later in the 1960s, he played with the Dixie Gentlemen and in John Hartford’s Aero-Plain band.
Taylor became a local Nashville, Tennessee fixture. In 1970, he co-founded the instrument shop GTR there, soon after releasing another solo album. He also co-founded the Old Time Pickin’ Parlor, a Nashville venue noted for performances of old-time music, as well as Tut Taylor’s General Store.
Also see the Old Time Pickin’ Parlor http://oldtimepickinparlor.com/fr_home.cfm
click for larger image: