The Elusive Diana White
Updated: Apr 19, 2022
Crawling back from the misery of a very bad cold, I have been catching up with emails. A few in particular came from Tom Harleman who read Pluck and became curious about Diana White, David's friend and touring companion in the seventies. Diana was very important to David's development as a player, songwriter and arranger; she was a classically-trained mandolinist. I couldn't tell Tom much more about her than what I wrote in Pluck.
I tried very hard to find Diana during the research. Several interviewees who had attended festivals that she and David attended remembered seeing her, but nobody knew much about her or what happened to her. It was like she disappeared off the face of the earth.
The little I learned that informed her appearance in Pluck came from Bonnie Carol and Rick Freimuth. Diana, David and Bonnie toured together for a time as Tres Ríos in the seventies (see the photo of the trio in this Bonnie Carol post. Finally, I learned that sometime afterwards Diana married an Australian and moved to the Land Down Under, and later passed
away. I never found out when nor could I confirm that.
Bonnie attributes some of the original songs and arrangements in her books, Dust Off That Dulcimer & Dance! and Fingerdances for Dulcimer to Diana. Diana wrote and David named the tune that interested Tom, "Have Mercy on the Turtle in the Road." Bonnie writes that Diana's "Growing Rain" was inspired by her life for a time in the Pacific Northwest. Bonnie writes that her rousing rendition of "Santa Ana's Retreat" in Fingerdances... was taught to her by David and Diana.
This photo of Diana at her cabin in Nederland was taken by Rick Freimuth. He remembers her well from the time he knew her, and she must have been very fond of him because she made a
macrame strap for Rick's dulcimer that David made for him.
I was so sorry to hear that Diana had passed away because the young girl in these photos
looks like a kind and generous person. The songs she left behind suggest she had much to give the world via her considerable musical talents and her sense of humor. She must have been an intrepid spirit given that she traveled to pursue her music, toured at such a young age and that she lived in many several regions of the world: St. Louis, the Pacific Northwest, Nederland, Colorado and Australia, to name the few places for which I could find evidence. I think of Diana fondly for the gifts she did leave behind. In my humble opinion, she is right at the top of the list of the most important early influences on David Schnaufer's career, not only for the mandolin techniques she taught him, but for the confidence she helped him develop as a songwriter, arranger, and professional performer. Their time together was no doubt incredibly rich and stimulating for both, given their dedication to their art.