Wild Dulcimer Songbook
Centerstream, Columbia Pictures Publications
The “how to read tab” excerpts from this book will aid any aspiring musician in understanding standardized musical notation and, specifically, the tablature developed for the American Appalachian Mountain dulcimer. Additional pages provide chords as well as printable, blank, staff-line pages and chord charts to aid players in writing their own music. The illustrations of techniques use examples from Poker Face Smile, Sing Sailor, Wabash Cannonball, Wellyn, and Firenze-- songs from the book whose complete tablature can be found in the Songs and Tune List pages of this website.
About the book: The year The Wild Dulcimer Songbook was published, 1981, was the beginning of the true “overground” flowering of Albert's and my careers in the world of music. With three albums and two books already out, we were co-billing with acts like Doc Watson, Norman Blake, Kate Wolfe, Alex DeGrassi, Robin Williamson as well as being independent headliners in the booking circuits.
These days (2014) the dulcimer now has a niche market of its own. Numerous festivals around the country feature classes and performances. None of this (except the Kindred Gathering) existed back then. Albert and I were not being booked because we played the dulcimer. We were being booked because we were nationally-known folk musicians who just happened to play the dulcimer. And to be picked up by Columbia Pictures, wow! We were sure was the beginning of the rocket ride.
ED Denson's record label, Kicking Mule, made a lot of their money on the spirally-bound tab books for which the majority of their artists provided tab and some text copy about the tricks of the licks. Like a lot of small labels they certainly were no challenge to the Oaks and Mel Bays out there in the music publishing business, but for the most part, were content with their own direct sales market. I am not quite sure, even today, how our songbook escaped this pathway.
The bare bones of the story is that ED was approached by a gentleman named Ron Middlebrook who had some connections and a plan. (So many adventures start with those words!) Maybe the cache' of the Random House publication held some sway-- couldn't hurt. At any rate Ron secured the rights to put his name (Middlebrook= Centerstream. Get it?) and to “pitch it” to Columbia. Our job, in addition to having written and recorded the tunes, was to do everything else on the book.
Central to this efforts, like in the Pacific Rim Dulcimer Songbook, was our friend, Baila Dworsky, who not only inked much of the final music but also proofed the dulcimer tablature. We listed her in the “thanks” section as the Editor though she was much more. Noted jazz pianist, Barney McClure, listened to the album and wrote out the music on the fly as it was playing. Baila worked with that skeleton to put flesh on the bones. In this age of computer-generated music books, her handwritten work is still not only sensitively beautiful but it is also much sweeter on the eye to read and use.
Gue' Pilon provided most of the art work and illustrations though (ick!) some clip art was added along the way. Our long-time photographer friend, John Servais, supplied one of the alternate shots not used for the cover of the Art of Dulcimer for the fronts-piece. Bette Taxera did the layout and design. Bob DeWeese proofed the text copy. Mike Rugg and Ken Gillepsie also helped with the transcriptions. It takes a village to write a book. Though, from all this effort-- to this day-- not a single dime ever found its way into my pocket nor into those of the many who helped make this book come to life.
So, in the established spirit of keeping this book free-- use this stuff! To paraphrase a song from one of my musical heroes, John Sebastian, “Divide them and care for them. Make sure that you share them. I want you have them in the hopes that you'll be as lovely as the people who did this for me.”