Mystery Gerald Titus dulcimer 1967, odd fine-tuners

Ken Longfield
Ken Longfield
@ken-longfield
2 weeks ago
833 posts

Regarding the slot; I wonder if it was an attempt to loosen the top and allow it to vibrate more. I realize that as it flares out and extends over the sides of the dulcimer it would do little to lessen the stiffness of the top.

Ken

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

Ken Longfield
Ken Longfield
@ken-longfield
2 weeks ago
833 posts

Dusty is correct about Sunhearth dulcimers. Walt Martin's fine tuners were usually made of ebony and broke easily. I've never heard of Mr. Titus either. That is quite a list of folks you have contacted who have no knowledge of him. You may have already done this, but have you contacted Bob Dylan? I realize that Dylan is 80 years old and it may be difficult to remember back 55 years, but is worth a try.

Ken

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
2 weeks ago
1,889 posts

A number of builders use(d) bead type fine tuners, but I've never seen them so tall!  I would think they would get in the way of your strumming hand!

Sorry, I've never heard of builder Titus either.  Others to query would be Robert Force and Neal Hellman, both of The Pacific Rim Project days.  Bonnie Carol is another of that crew, and a builder herself, who may also shed some light.

Like Lisa, I wonder at that slot... thinking that the bridge has been moved forward whether due to a miscalculation of the correct location (and the mis-cut slot never filled in) or something else.  You might want to query Joanna about that...

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
2 weeks ago
1,507 posts

I think some of the Sunhearth dulcimers used to have fine tuners as well.  They were smaller than the ones on this dulcimer, but they worked in the same basic way.

Sorry, I never heard of Mr. Titus.  I do know where Edith Street is, though. It's by MLK Middle School where I once heard Ricky Skaggs perform but which is better known as the school where the kids maintain a garden that sells fresh veggies to Alice Waters and Chez Panisse.




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Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

As a musician, you have to keep one foot back in the past and one foot forward into the future.
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Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
2 weeks ago
2,018 posts

Virginia dulcimer maker Keith Young used to make flat-bottomed fine tuning wooden beads similar way, with a hole to thread the string through. See the various photos in this thread.
Keith's dulcimers look very different than yours though in all other ways. I don't think Keith invented such things either, I'm pretty sure fine tuning beads that slide have been used on other instruments besides dulcimers.

I'm wondering the purpose of that deep slot. Do you think it might held an original wooden bridge? I've seen lots of dulcimers with their bridge inserted into such a slot. Even the Keith young in the above thread has its bridge set into a cut slot, though not as large as your slot.

Sorry I have not heard of this person Titus. Maybe someone else has.
You might ask @patricia-delich who is very knowledgeable about 1960s-70s California dulcimer people and who publishes "Hearts of the Dulcimer"- see her page here: https://fotmd.com/patricia-delich

(btw i removed your other thread that was identical to this one, only one is needed)




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Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
JoelPomerantz
JoelPomerantz
@joelpomerantz
2 weeks ago
1 posts

Hello! I'm new here, dropping in with a story and a fun mystery .

I’m on a wild goose chase to find out about a 1960s Berkeley, California dulcimer maker who signed this instrument "Gerald L. Titus".

Just a couple weeks ago, my dear friend Joanna McClure gifted me a dulcimer that I adore. It's been hanging on her wall for many years and she always asks me to play it for her when I go to her house, here in San Francisco. Otherwise it has, according to her, hardly ever been played, which is too bad since it sounds pretty damn good!

It was given (1970s? 1960s?) to her former husband Michael (yes, the famous Beat Poet Michael McClure) by Bob Dylan, apparently (according to Michael) in an attempt to get him to learn it and play with Bob. But Michael lost interest and left it behind when he moved out some decades ago during their divorce. Michael died recently and so the dulcimer became unmoored, I guess. 

I wasn’t able to find Titus or anyone who has heard of him, so I’m asking around.

I already checked with:
Holly Tannen
JoEllen Lapidus
Howard Rugg (CapriTaurus Dulcimers)
Marc Silber
Hank Bradley
Larry White (Thin Man Music)
Claudia Schmidt
Cathie Whitesides
DJ Hamouris
Gregg Miner

Inside the dulcimer is a sticker saying:
1967 Dulcimer No. 5
Gerald L. Titus, 1516 Edith, Berkeley, California

That house on Edith has changed owners many, many times since then.

QUESTIONS:

Have you ever seen fine-tuning like this on a dulcimer? I think it's brilliant. It may be unique. JoEllen Lapidus says there's something a bit like it that she's seen with beads on a flat surface.

Have you heard of Titus or seen another dulcimer by him? I wonder whether his others use this same tuning mechanism. I wonder how many he made and for how many years (and what other instruments types he made, if any). I wonder how and to whom he sold dulcimers—just a hobby? It's nicely made!

Please let me know if you have any hint for me! Thank you so much!

Joel

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