Glenn Family 3 and 4 String Dulcimers 1965 – 1983 :
Leonard (1910 – 1997) and his son Clifford (1937- ) kept the flame alive in the Appalachians between the traditional makers and the coming of the folk revival in the 60s and 70s. As “transitional” makers, they represent a very important part of the dulcimer’s heritage. These are truly handmade, beautifully crafted instruments, as described in Ralph Lee Smith’s famous book “Appalachian Dulcimer Traditions”. Leonard is featured on the cover with his wife Clara. Leonard’s maternal grandfather was Eli Presnell who, as legend has it, was visited in the 1880s by a “stranger from the west” who brought the first dulcimer seen in those parts. Eli traced its outline, before making a dulcimer of his own, and the distinctive “sloping shoulder” shape has been a favourite in this area of N Carolina ever since.
3.25 – 1965 Clifford Glenn 3 String Hourglass
Handwritten paper slip: “Clifford Glenn/Sugar Grove, N.C./ Dec, 1965”. This instrument is made mainly of walnut: a single piece back and figured sides, headstock and tailpiece, but a white hardwood – possibly butternut – two piece top. Elegant chamfered scroll on headstock, hand chiselled pegbox with hand cut squareish walnut pegs. Original (?) small brass screws in peg tips replace the usual string hole. Hardwood nut and bridge, neatly cut. Typical NC, Presnell-style high, thin tailpiece with holes, wooden strainer bar and single screw string anchor. Single piece walnut fingerboard with full length frets, but no 6½ fret. Strum hollow is simply chamfered rather than lowered and hence has some pick wear. Flush, not fiddle-edge sides. Heart soundholes pointing towards each other – UB to tail, LB to head. Two part top is nailed to each side of the hollow fingerboard, like a Presnell. Back tacked onto headstock and tailblock like an Amburgey.
Overall length 35”, upper bout 5½”, lower bout 6⅝”, depth 1½”, FBW 1¼”, VSL 28″ (medium/long scale), weight 1lb 11oz (755g). No 6½ fret.
This is a lovely dulcimer. It is long and elegant – perhaps slightly better proportioned than the later 4 strings, given its shorter pegbox. Simply, but well made, it has a fine musical tone, good intonation in 1:5:5 tuning and – despite its very shallow body – some volume.
3.29 – 1974 Leonard or Clifford Glenn 3 String Hourglass
Paper slip inside, handwritten, “[?]d Glenn/ Sugar Grove, N.C./ [?]5, 1974”. Water and light damage to label has obscured first name and part of date, so could be either Leonard or Clifford. Very similar to the 1965 above: 3 strings, 3 string slots in the nut, square cut (non-flared) headstock, shallow body, chamfered level strum “hollow”. Probably all walnut, but darker, more figured sides. Came with an Oak or Sassafras display stand – possibly contemporary, but unlikely to have been provided by the Glenns(?).
Original (?) strings 0.011, 0.011, 0.21w. Overall length 35¼”, upper bout 5½”, lower bout 6½”, depth 1⅜”, FBW 1¼”, VSL 28″ (medium/long scale), weight 1lb 14oz (864g). No 6½ fret.
A pretty dulcimer also, with similar intonation and sound to the 1965, but this time with a very high action – specified for noter playing perhaps?
3.31 – 1978 Clifford Glenn 4 String Hourglass
Paper slip inside, handwritten, “Clifford Glenn/ Sugar Grove, N.C./ Aug. 25, 1978”. Maple body, with maple fingerboard, headstock, tailpiece, bridge and nut; walnut pegs. Clearly a later model: has deeper sides than 1965 and 1974 dulcimers above. Also an odd string layout with 6 slots in the nut for 2/3 different configurations, one clearly intended for doubled middle string. Incised line decoration round edge of top and back. Single piece back attached with 3 tacks at the head and 1 at the back. Brass frets, no 6½ fret. Wooden string strainer on tail, single brass screw string anchor. However, still has level, but chamfered, strum “hollow” of 1965 and 1974 models.
Original (?) strings 0.010/0.010, 0.010, 0.18w. Overall length 36¼”, upper bout 5⅝”, lower bout 6⅝”, depth 1½”, FBW 1½”, VSL 28⅛” (medium/long scale), weight 2lb 4oz (1034g). No 6½ fret.
Striking, with its highly figured maple body and long, elegant 4 string pegbox. Bright, from the maple body, yet still with that typical Glenn transparent sweet sound.