Thursday, March 13, 2014

Show 'n tell: Old dulcimers from Tennessee, Kentucky at Knoxville Area Dulcimer Club meeting Sunday, March 23

Details below from a blurb I sent to KADC for inclusion in their March newsletter. Their meetings are at 2 p.m. the fourth Sunday of the month at Second United Methodist Church, 1524 Western Ave. just off I-40 in downtown Knoxville. Website at

Pete Ellertsen, now of downstate Illinois and formerly of Norris, Oak Ridge and at least a half dozen off-campus student apartments in Knoxville’s Fort Sanders neighborhood during the 1960s and 1970s, will demonstrate early folk-revival dulcimers and swap reminiscences about the Knoxville folk music scene in the 1960s and 70s at KADC’s monthly meeting on Sunday, March 23.

A mountain dulcimer collector and regular contributor to Dulcimer Players News, Pete will bring instruments by Bill Davis, Dorsey Williams, Homer Ledford and Jethro Amburgey that KADC members can play, so they can experience how mountain dulcimers in Kentucky and Tennessee were adapted by their makers as playing styles evolved from noter-and-drone to chord-melody styles of playing.

The oldest of Pete’s dulcimers is a three-string1966 Jethro Amburgey of Hindman, Ky., with staple frets under the melody string only. His first dulcimer, which his family bought for him in 1972 from Homer Ledford of Winchester, Ky., is fretted similarly but has one wire staple fret under all four strings at the third fret. He also has undated instruments from Bill Davis of Gatlinburg and Dorsey Williams of Jefferson City, probably from the 1960s or early 70s, with guitar-type frets that extend all the way across the fretboard.

A retired English and journalism teacher at Benedictine University Springfield (Ill.), Pete coordinates jam sessions in Springfield and a renovated 1840s-vintage stagecoach stop for dulcimers and other stringed instruments. He has taken mountain- and hammered-dulcimer workshops at the John C. Campbell Folk School, Common Ground on the Hill and Western Carolina University.

Pete started playing the dulcimer as a grad student at UT Knoxville and served in the early 80s on the board of Jubilee Community Arts.

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