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Then and Now: The Dulcimer Evolves (part 2)

Updated: Feb 6, 2022

If the dulcimer and/or its music is new to you, then this post is for you. It is the second of three posts where I will make the case that something very interested happened in U.S. music history that was way below the radar of most people unfamiliar with folk music. (Here is the first post on this subject.) Pluck tells a history of what happened. It's rich.


As I mentioned in a previous post, David Schnaufer is the main character of Pluck, and the mountain dulcimer is another. During the course of the research for the book, I met a whole lot of fascinating people involved in the dulcimer world, all of them the kind of people who will restore your faith in humanity if it needs it this days. Sam Edelston is one of them; you can watch him in the previous post demonstrating how dulcimer music has evolved. And Bing Futch is another kind and generous person in addition to being a virtuoso. You'll watch him below.

John Boy Walton (Richard Thompson) accmpanies himself on a mountain dulcimer. Source: http://www.allaboutthewaltons.com/ep-s1/s01-17.php

On January 18, 1973: "The Waltons" debuted their first season's Episode 17 entitled "The Love Story." Countless Americans saw and heard the Appalachian dulcimer for the first time when John Boy Walton (Richard Thompson) played a dulcimer as he sang a love song. You can listen to the clip of him playing here. (Scroll down to the bottom of the page and hit the arrow to play on the first song clip.) See him in the photo on the right; he uses a feather to strum. (John Boy must have been new to using a feather as a plectrum because he's holding it upside down and with the barbs still attached!)

As a result of clips like this, many people loved the "sweet sound" of the instrument, while others thought it was the simpleton of the musical instrument neighborhood: not very sophisticated, a little rough, handmade a back-woodsy type of thing.


Now, only after you listen to the Walton clip, take a peek at the video below. This is Bing Futch front and center leading a big bunch of his friends as they close out at 2017 festival in Evart, Michigan.


How did dulcimer music go from John Boy's sound to Bing's? Actually, I think both are wonderful in that they demonstrate the incredible versatility of this instrument. The dulcimer has something for everyone.


Pluck shares some of the history of the kindling that started the fire that led to the extraordinary changes between John Boy's and Bing Futch's music. Watch and hear the joy.



If you get a moment, please visit Bing's website at bingfutch.com

Listen to his new Album The Beauty and the Terror - bingfutch.hearnow.com/ Watch his YouTube Channel, featuring Dulcimerica ...https://www.youtube.com/bingfutch/videos


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