Over the Hill group lives on

Published 12:28am Saturday, July 21, 2012

One day recently, I took up a pick and sat down to strum “Down in the Valley” on a dulcimer for a few minutes. During all the years my husband, Claude, played the dulcimer, I was so busy I never took the time to learn to play. Oh, I’d get a little excited about dulcimers when we went to festivals and strummed on mine a little. I never gained enough confidence to play in a group because I didn’t stay with it the way Claude did. He found joy in making music with the delightful little lap instrument and enjoyed helping others learn to play it.

The day I practiced “Down in the Valley” for 30 minutes or so, I went back to cleaning a bedroom closet where I found a sheaf of papers. Among them were two small sheets of lined yellow paper. The top of the cover page was dated 1995. Truman Fuller wrote how the Over the Hill Gang got organized and began meeting at our house to play dulcimers and guitars.

The group began to fall into place after Truman read one of my columns about my husband Claude and me attending the Southern Appalachian Dulcimer Association Festival. Truman and his friend Howard Pierce had gotten together several times to play their dulcimers. Truman decided to call Claude to ask if he could come over with his dulcimer. It wasn’t long before Howard joined them and they decided to meet weekly. After they played at a church gathering, Dub Peacock, a guitarist who loved to sing, asked to join them. Then Claude learned that Dallas Henderson, a friend at church, had a dulcimer, and he became a part of the group. Next Robert Page came along with his dulcimer and someone mentioned that a Baptist preacher, Fred Fowler, played a dulcimer and loved to sing. Fred soon jumped on board. Several others came sporadically. The Over the Hill Gang performed at church gatherings, nursing homes, and school events. Their repertoire included hymns, ballads and jigs.

The Over the Hill Gang was a jolly group. As I went about my household chores on the mornings they met, Claude reminded me to “Get the coffee pot going.” In the meantime, they played, sung, laughed, played, laughed, and laughed some more. It was fun to serve this congenial group during their coffee break. Most of the time, someone would suggest I grab my dulcimer and join them. I never did. It was great just to stay in the background, hear the music and catch snatches of the conversation.

Although Truman, Claude, Dub and Robert have passed, a dulcimer group that had its origins with the Over the Hill Gang is still alive today. It is the Heart of Dixie Dulcimer Club of Opp, which holds an annual fall dulcimer festival.

Maybe if I “keep my strings warm,” as dulcimer players say, I might muster the nerve to play with a group at the next festival.

 

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