by David Bennett December 2015
Enos Yeager was prominent in the dulcimer world in southern Tennessee and northern Alabama for many years and was president of the Paul Pyle * Dulcimer Club in Tullahoma, Tennessee. Many local mountain dulcimer players still remember playing with Enos, while others have one of his dulcimers. Then there are others like me, who have heard about Enos but never met him (and I regret the one opportunity I had to meet Enos and play with him, but was unable to go that day).
Not long ago I spoke with one of Enos’ sons, Roy, and learned more about Enos.
Enos was born on 15 September, 1936 in Birmingham Alabama and died on 17 March, 2012 in Fayetteville, Tennessee.
When I asked Roy how Enos became interested in mountain dulcimers he said his dad always dabbled in music and had read about dulcimer maker Bill Davis in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. When the Yeager family was moving from Maryland back to El Paso, Texas in 1973 they stopped at Bill Davis’ shop and bought a mountain dulcimer kit. Having completed the kit Enos decided he could make dulcimers himself. [Author’s note: I read on everythingdulcimer.com that someone found the receipt in the pocket of their mother’s dulcimer bag for a Bill Davis dulcimer and that it cost $150 plus $7.50 tax. A Bill Davis kit ran $75 (not sure of the date). In 1982 a Bill Davis kit cost $145].
The first dulcimer Enos built from scratch was made in 1976 out of oak and he called it his “Bicentennial Dulcimer”. Roy told me Enos wrote in his journal that he had built 1,400 dulcimers. His dulcimers ended up in every state but two, and were sold to customers in thirteen countries. Roy said the Japanese really liked Enos dulcimers and “ordered a lot of them.”
Enos made all sorts of dulcimers and special orders. Many of the dulcimers Enos made were very ornate, depending on what the customer ordered.
According to Roy, Enos took what he learned about building dulcimers and applied the techniques to building other original instruments. One such instrument was called the “Guildle” (rhymes with “fiddle”) that was half dulcimer and half Dobro.
Another original instrument Enos made was a “two by four dulcimer” and as you can guess was made from a 2X4. The two by four dulcimer had autoharp tuners.
In addition, Enos made an instrument from a broomstick. Roy told me it was the broomstick dulcimer that Enos played on the television show Hee Haw. Though Enos was filmed twice on Hee Haw, they only used one of the two parts he recorded. I have been unable to find out precisely when Enos was recorded on Hee Haw or when that show was aired on television. I’d love to find it on DVD! One of Enos’ sons is trying to locate a photo he has of Enos playing on Hee Haw and if that comes to fruition I’ll be sure to post it here.
Regarding the broomstick dulcimer Roger Patterson told me, “He strung up a broom and fretted it like a dulcimer. I have seen him play it many times and I talked to him many times about it. He used to play it at local dulcimer festivals and get a kick out of sweeping after he played. I did not see the (Hee Haw) episode on TV, but he talked about quite a bit. He was paid $500.00 per performance.”
El Paso Herald-Post » 1976 » April » 22 Apr 1976, Thu » Page 24
DULCIMER MAKER- W02 Enos L. Yeager spends his spare time at Ft. Bliss making dulcimers. The dulcimer is a stringed instrument which dates back to Biblical times. His personal design is similar to that of a violin, and each is made entirely by hand. The body of the instrument is made of birch and the fingerboard and head of oak. After her retires from the Army next month, W02 Yeager plans to go into full time dulcimer and furniture making in Tennessee.
Here is a photo I took of a “Double Dulcimer”, aka “Courting Dulcimer” made by Enos that is on display at Falls Mill in Belvidere, Tennessee. Enos told the Lovett’s that this courting dulcimer was once played by Roy Acuff on the Grand Ole Opry and was on display at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville for many years. A number of years ago the Ryman changed their displays around and returned the dulcimer to Enos, who being a member of the Falls Mill Museum, donated it for display. (the photo with the dulcimer is of Roy Acuff). By the way, Falls Mill (http://fallsmill.com) is a working grist mill and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a beautiful place to visit anytime.
A Visit With Enos
On September 3, 2011 Roger Patterson, Paul Blackburn and Jerry Todd made a visit to jam with Enos Yeager at the Donalson Living Center in Fayetteville and entertained the ladies in the dining hall.
L to R: Jerry Todd, Roger Patterson, Enos Yeager, Paul Blackburn
Jerry Todd and Enos Yeager
Preston Reynolds with his Enos Yeager dulcimer
The following is part of an article from the Grand Old Dulcimer Club Gazette in February 2002:
Getting to Know Us: Nannette Martin
Nannette Martin is one of our club’s newest “regulars,” but her interest in the mountain dulcimer is anything but new. Nannette saw her first dulcimer over 30 years ago while vacationing at Mammoth Cave. It was “love at first listen,” and the romance continues. Here’s how Nannette came to join our playing circle…
What happened to move your dulcimer from the wall to your lap? Several years after our move to Nashville in 1990, I was attending the Bell Buckle Festival and noticed dulcimers for sale by a man named Enos Yeager. I bought one-a little more playable than my first dulcimer-and several months later, I purchased five others and gave three away as Christmas presents. In getting to know Enos, I learned of the Tullahoma Paul Pyle Dulcimer Club and through them, I found Sandy Conatser. Still frustrated that I wasn’t learning anything, I asked Sandy if she would be willing to take me on as a student. Sandy introduced me to David Schnaufer, and I studied with both of them for a couple of years.
Do you play or own any other instruments? As a little girl, my very first love was the violin, but no one in my family was into music, so that dream was put on hold until adulthood. I bought a student model violin and started taking lessons in Ft. Wayne. In Nashville, I became the first student of a young fiddler named Heather Kolbrek who eventually went on the road with Trisha Yearwood’s band. I still have and will always treasure the violin she helped me choose to purchase and play. I also studied banjo and mandolin for a short time. For a while, I was torn between the four instruments, all of which I love dearly. I’ve asked David to order a banjimer for me because it combines the great twangy tones of a banjo and the familiar finger patterns of the dulcimer. My goal is to become proficient at both. We also have a Russian balalaika, an antique mandolin, an antique ‘banjo-uke’, an antique Italian violin, a folk harp, a psaltery, a stand up double bass, a backpacker’s mandolin, two violins, and a total of six dulcimers, including my husband’s favorite – a dulcimer called a “2 by 4” that was made by Enos Yeager.
Next is a Discussion/Comments about Enos Yeager that was posted on EverythingDulcimer.com in 2007:
Enos Yeager: mountain dulcimer
Post by justme2009 » Dec 28, 2007: Hi all, I’m curious if anyone here owns, or has heard of, or has played an Enos Yeager mountain dulcimer. I own one made by him. It’s a simple teardrop shape, solid woods (I think), with butterfly sound holes. It says it’s made by Enos Yeager in Fayetteville, TN. No fancies or frills, but it’s got a deep, big sound box, a sweet mellow voice, and it’s taken a few beatings and got through them just fine!
I’ve googled his name, basically found nothing – – only that he lives in Fayetteville. Has anyone else heard of this gentleman and his dulcimers? If I could meet him, I’d tell him “Good job and thanks”.
Post by Davef » Dec 29, 2007: I was at a festival a few years ago and he or someone had some of his dulcimers there and they were like you described, very simple but nicely built and I thought a good sound. They were also very reasonable; I think they started around $100.
Post by Rooster » Dec 29, 2007: I’ll be glad to pass on the good word to Enos. We all consider him a friend and a good builder here in northern Alabama. He makes a lot of festivals in Alabama and Miss. Retired Army and a nice guy/ friend and his dulcimers are of the highest craftsmanship. All solid woods.
Post by Betsy Anthony » Jan 01, 2008: I have 4 of Enos’s instruments. They are a good quality, sound good-not real loud, not real fancy and a fair price. A good instrument to start your dulcimer DAD. He is a wonderful down to earth fellow.
In early 1990, along with Archie & Ann Lee of Red Bay and Kim Caulfield, Enos became a member of the Huntsville Traditional Music Association (HTMA). The HTMA was formerly the “Tennessee Valley Association Of Folk, Traditional And Old Time Musicians” and later the “Huntsville Association of Folk Musicians” (HAFM).
There is an article about the Elk Valley Crafters Association in October 2015 that mentions Enos and Wanda. http://ardmore.mytelcoconnection.com/
In conclusion, and as I stated above, I missed my chance to actually meet Enos but I know his legacy will continue on in the memory his friends have of him and in the many instruments he built and are still being played today.
* Paul W.Pyle Tullahoma TN
City seeks to name bridge after Paul and Louella Pyle http://www.tullahomanews.com/?p=13568
Here’s some dulcimer books Paul Pyle wrote; I have been able to obtain copies of a couple of these:
- The Appalachian Mountain Dulcimer Book. Tullahoma, TN: Paul Pyle Studios, 1976.
- How to Tune and Play the Dulcimer. Tullahoma, TN: Paul Pyle Studios, 1973.
- To Build a Dulcimer: A Simplified, Economical Demonstration in the Construction, Tuning and Playing of the Dulcimer. Tullahoma, TN: Paul Pyle Studios, 1976.