David Bennett 21 June 2015
Recently I saw a photograph listed on EBay titled: “Dulcy Marcum ‘The Kentucky Mountain Girl’ from Troublesome Creek”.
For me the importance of this photo is this shows while the instrument may not have been widely known, the mountain dulcimer was not completely unknown to the public in the 1930s and those who did know about it associated the dulcimer with the Appalachian region.
As you can see the dulcimer she is holding is somewhat unusual in that it has star shaped sound holes. I’ve seen star sound holes once before at the David Schnaufer Dulcimer Exhibit at the Tennessee State Museum in 2013. In the collection was one of David Schnaufer’s mountain dulcimers made by Dennis McCown from Big Tyler Mountain, West Virginia in 1911 on display. In addition I have seen the star sound hole on a few modern dulcimers now and then.
From what I can tell from the EBay listing Dulcy Marcum was an entertainer and radio personality during the 1930s. Other than this item listed on EBay I have been unable to find anything else about Dulcy Marcum or the NBC radio show she is reported to have been a part of. My guess is the outfit she has on in this photo is likely a publicity shot to promote her radio show. Also, since she is holding a mountain dulcimer I have to wonder if “Dulcy” is her stage name.
Most of my conjecture is based on the description for this EBay listing:
“Dulcy Marcum was promoted as an NBC radio star called “The Kentucky Mountain Girl from Troublesome Creek” and wrote the song “One Kiss Divine” that was played by Wayne King on early radio.”
The photo is not dated but does have the location, Louisville, KY; Dulcy Marcum signed the original photo of herself to:
“Connie, Martha & Vet. The world’s best on blues Best wishes,
The back of the photo includes the humorous line:
“In case I don’t see you anymore, here is that picture— It is great for keeping rats, book agents and bill collectors away –Dulcy”
The EBay listing stated “Connie, Martha & Vet were the famous Boswell Sisters vocal trio of the 1930s, who most likely met Dulcy at NBC where they both performed.”
Unlike Dulcy Marcum I have found quite a bit about Connie, Martha & Vet on the Internet and their music and videos of them can be found there:
“…During the 1930’s a new phrase entered the musical lexicon: “the Boswell Sound.” This new sound was musically intricate, innovative and optimistic–a formidable weapon to combat the Depression blues. There had never been a combination like Martha, Connie and Vet, and to this day their rhythmic sound inspires imitations and spin-offs all over the globe, influencing scores of vocal groups, soloists, arrangers and instrumentalists…
“…In just a few years–from 1928 to 1935–they moved from local celebrity to international fame via network radio, theatre appearances, recordings, movies, and a new medium, television. They worked with top talents including Bing Crosby, Burns and Allen, the Dorsey Brothers, Benny Goodman, and Artie Shaw–to mention a few…”