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FOD: Guest post by Steven Stubblefield

When I started the Pluck Blog, I envisioned putting up posts that followed the chronology of Pluck, but I've made an executive decision to throw that decision out the window. Too many shared stories coming my way to make readers wait. So, without giving too much away if you haven't read the book, today's post comes directly from Steve Stubblefield. You'll meet Steve Stubblefield and his friends in the second half of David's story during the formation of the Starlings, TN band, and I'll write more about them in a future blog post. (He has also made a brief appearance already in the Pluck Blog; if you missed it, watch his and Tim Bryan's unforgettable performance on dulcimer here at the Villager in Hillsboro at the bottom of the linked post.)

Leaper's Fork by the band, Starlings, TN. Courtesy of Chicken Ranch Records.

David definitely lived the “hero’s journey” life. A true troubadour and one of the last of his breed.

We knew David was as into us as we were him because he told us. Once TJ was added to Starlings making us a quartet with Jose, Tim, and myself, we began the Leapers Fork recordings. After recording the bulk of it we knew we wanted to get David over to play on some parts. Back then we were still using a cassette 4-track. We asked David to come play Jews harp on red rocking chair. As I remember it, he didn’t want to hear it until the mic was hot and it was time to play. He did it in one take, stepped away from the mic, and came to the tiny space where the mixing board and 4-track were set up. He sat in the chair and listened to it again through the speakers set up for playback. When it was done, he stood up, pointed at the speakers, and said, “I wanna sound like that.”

That’s just how David was. He immersed himself into his work and when he found something new and inspiring, he would really dig in to get to the core of the source. He had his obligations with the Blair School of Music, Sarah, the Dulcimer Quartet, all his other private students, his own performances, traveling to festivals to judge competitions, and then us. He did all of these things at the same time. We knew how special David was. But, we were all friends and back then and it all seemed so small. Just neighborhood folks gathering for some beers and having fun. We had a lot of fun. David was never shy about giving compliments. He is truly one of the most gentle spirits I’ve ever come across in this world.

And, here's the thing: I spent many an hour interviewing Steven on the phone, and today, he's coming to the farm for a visit during his trip to Nashville. I am so looking forward to finally meeting him in person. He is the kindest, most generous soul, a kindred spirit to his buddy and mentor.

Discovering the Starlings' music was quite an experience that I will write more about in a future post. It's the perfect example of the magic that happens when very creative people from completely different traditions come together to create a new kind of music.

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Linda, this blog reminds me of what I read in Pluck about what David was doing later in life when he was recording music so it would not be lost. Your collection of dulcimer history and culture is such a great resource for anyone interested in this wonderful instrument or David. I am a fan.

Linda Paulus
Linda Paulus
Feb 26, 2022
Replying to

Well thank you for the kind words. From my perspective, David's recordings--both contemporary and of historic instruments--are important for being primary sources for future music historians as well as new generations of those who are curious about dulcimer music and history. The purpose of this website, on the other hand, is to point people to those sources and to incite an interest in taking up an instrument that lends itself very well to all different skill levels of players from beginners to professionals. Until I found the dulcimer, I didn't believe I could play an instrument, and, well, here we are!😂

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