August 2019 - "Dulcimer Daze"
In the fall of 1976, a junior high school art teacher named Gil Anderson happened to wander into a coffee house in Syracuse, NY, and heard someone playing a mountain dulcimer. He was instantly mesmerized by the haunting sound of the instrument, and set out to find one for himself to learn to play. Dulcimers proved to be hard to find at the time, so after a year of a frustrating search, he heard about a dulcimer building class being offered at a local adult education center, and enrolled. He built one, and then another, and soon he and his wife Beth started vending his instruments at weekend craft shows all over the northeast US, marketed under the company name he created, “Dulcimer Daze”. One day, while doing a craft show in a shopping mall, Gil was watching folks shuffle in and out of a shop selling all sorts of roasted nuts while noodling around on his dulcimer. It was from that noodling that the tune “Nut Factory Shuffle” was created, which has since become a favorite standard at dulcimer jam sessions all around the country.
During that same period, a group of dulcimer enthusiasts started getting together regularly at Gil and Beth’s house to play together, and learn from each other and write new tunes. Gil came up with another tune to share with them, which he named after his company, “Dulcimer Daze”. With Gil’s kind permission, this month’s tab is an arrangement of that tune, composed on and for the mountain dulcimer. Gil describes it as “just another tune born from noodling around with various chord progressions”. (If you look closely at the faces in this back yard gathering, you’ll find a young Sue Carpenter, back before she became a National Mountain Dulcimer champion, instructor, performer, and author).
Around 1982, Gil met David and Melissa Marks, the original owners of Folkcraft Instruments headquartered in Winstead, CT. Folkcraft opened another store in the Webatuck Craft Village in Wingdale, NY, where Gil and Beth became the full-time managers. Gil continued to build and evolve his own instrument design as well, and in 1988, a man named Hal Thau wandered into the Wingdale shop to purchase a dulcimer. He chose an instrument based on Gil’s design, and presented it as a wedding present to one of his clients - who happened to be a musician named John Denver. Gil had heard that Denver enjoyed teaching himself to play the instrument, and after his untimely death in 1997, the dulcimer was passed on to one of his family members, who reportedly still has it, and enjoys playing it.
While Gil was working at the Folkcraft store in NY, he met a musician named Tom White, and his wife Geri. Together, they recorded both “Nut Factory Shuffle” and “Dulcimer Daze” on their first album entitled “Workin’ Days”. Unfortunately, that album is out of print. But here is a link to a YouTube video of “Dulcimer Daze” being performed by Marc Mathieu (dulcimer) and his brother Gilbert (guitar), recorded on the shore of Pivabiska Lake near Hearst, Ontario, Canada.
Gil moved on from the dulcimer world in 1989, and went on to have a successful career as a financial advisor, as well as a part-time golf instructor. He and his wife are now retired, and living in upstate NY. But in a recent message, Gil indicated that he’s getting the “itch” to pick up the dulcimer again after nearly 30 years We can only hope that he does - I’m sure he has lots more great tunes to share with us!