For those of you who remember the character “Ernest P. Worrell” from back in the 80s in a series of television commercials, and later in a television series (Hey Vern, It’s Ernest!) as well as several movies you might get a kick out of this information I stumbled across by accident.
By chance I ran across a YouTube video of Jim Varney playing a mountain dulcimer on Chevy Chase Show in 1993. Varney’s dulcimer history is pretty bad but still interesting to see him play nevertheless. It starts at about the 5-minute mark https://youtu.be/m2tdI86oIxI
After seeing the video I posted someone on EverythingDulcimer.com recommended I ask Don Pedi about his Jim Varney story. So I called him up this morning and asked him about it. Don told me that one time Jim Varney was in the Ashville, NC area shooting a film or something. During that time period Don Pedi was chairman “Folk Heritage Festival” or the annual “Shindig on the Green”. http://folkheritage.org/shindigonthegreen.htm
While Jim Varney was in the area he attended the Shindig on the Green event and wanted to play the mountain dulcimer on stage. Varney asked to borrow Don Pedi’s dulcimer. Don told me he warned Jim Varney about 8 1/2 fret on his dulcimer so it wouldn’t throw Varney off. Jim Varney said he understood and wanted to play it anyway. According to Don, Varney got up on stage and played “Wild Wood Flower” and was doing pretty good until he got to the high note of the tune and hit the 8 1/2 fret. Don said Varney was visibly mad at himself and each time he played through the tune kept hitting that 8 1/2 fret and getting madder. Thinking it was part of his “Ernest” comedy routine the audience loved it and cracked up each time Jim Varney “acted” mad.
Don ended the story by telling me that though he didn’t say it to Jim Varney, what went through his mind when Varney retuned the dulcimer was to say, “Know what I mean, Vern?”
I looked up Jim Varney’s bio on Wikipedia and see that he had more than a passing interest or connection to the mountain dulcimer:
He was born in 1949 in Pike County, Kentucky and grew up in Lexington, Kentucky and studied Shakespeare at the Barter Theatre in Abingdon, Virginia and performed in an Opryland folk show its first year of operation in the 1970s… When he was 24, Varney was an actor at the Pioneer Playhouse in Danville, Kentucky. The theater was adjacent to an old West Village and prior to the show the audience would tour the village where apprentices would play townsfolk. Varney and the company usually played in the outdoor theater to audiences of only a few dozen people. Varney would regale the young apprentices by throwing knives into trees. He performed in Blithe Spirit, Boeing 707 and an original musical, Fire on the Mountain… source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Varney
David Bennett <><
December 28, 2015