Don Pedi discusses his first Dulcimer, his favorite fiddle tunes, and then plays a version of "Five Miles From Town" he picked-up from fiddler Clyde Davenport of Monticello, KY. Video by Ken Adams.
Don Pedi was born into a musical family in Chelsea Massachusetts. On weekends, his grandfather, who died before Don was born, would close his barber shop for business, and open his home in the back as a gathering place for family and friends to share homemade food, fellowship and live music. Don's grandfather played guitar, mandolin and banjo. Don's uncle Frank made his living singing and playing music. Another gifted singer is Don's dad. He'll burst into song at the drop of a hat.
Don got involved with the Boston area folk music scene in the early sixties. 1964 was when he first laid eyes on a dulcimer. It was being played by Richard Farina at a live performance by Mimi and Richard Farina at the old Unicorn Coffee House in Boston.
The sound of the dulcimer proved most alluring. That night in a conversation with Richard Farina, Don was convinced that someday he would get himself a dulcimer and play it. Contemporary performers like Bob Dylan, Tom Paxton, Patrick Sky, Joan Baez and others attracted Don to the Newport Folk Festival. While there he was exposed to traditional musicians like Frank Proffitt, Doc Watson, Mississippi John Hurt, Almeda Riddle and such that where a major influence on his musical tastes. By 1966 Don was traveling a lot. With Cambridge as a base, he lived for various periods of time in different parts of the country. In 1973, while living in the Colorado Rockies, Don met Tad Wright and Keith Zimmerman, a couple of musicians from Asheville, NC. After hearing Don play, they invited him to join them. He did, and they piled into Tad's 1969 Volkswagen mini-van and drove to North Carolina.
At first sight of the mountains around Harmon Den and Fines Creek, Don knew he was home. He's pretty much lived in and around Asheville from then on. Since settling in Western North Carolina Don has been recognized as the man who could "really play" a dulcimer. He is a pioneer in that his music has broken new ground and cleared a path for others. In Don's hands, the dulcimer has been accepted as an instrument well suited to playing traditional Southern Dance music. This was at a time when most "Old-Time" musicians thought a dulcimer should be hung on a wall with a pretty ribbon.
In 1991 Don and wife Jean moved to a little farm in the mountains of Madison County, North Carolina. The area is rich in traditional music and customs (neighbors still plow with mules and horses). Don is at home.
Following are some of Don Pedi's music related
highlights from the past forty some years.
1968 - Began playing the dulcimer.
1974 - Won first place in the first contest he entered, at Fiddler's Grove, in Union Grove, NC.
1980 - At Fiddler's Grove, he won with such consistency, that Don was declared "Master Dulcimer Player" and removed from future competition.
1982 - Retired from all festival competitions with over thirty first place trophies and ribbons. Performed at the World Fair, where Don first heard and jammed with the Roan Mountain Hilltoppers. The experience was a musical epiphany. Met and began playing with friend and musical mentor, Bruce Greene, an extraordinary fiddler from Celo, North Carolina, who has had a profound and lasting effect on Don's view of Old Time Music.
1983 - Featured on three episodes of the Nashville Network's "Fire On The Mountain" TV series. Once with the "Don Pedi Band" on a show with Jethro Burns and Red Rector, and twice in segments with Brian Bowers and David Holt.
1984 - Featured on the Liberty Flyer, a national radio series on commercial country radio. Chosen for the touring show.
1981-1984 - Ran the Asheville Junction concert series, at the Stone Soup Restaurant
1985 - Began serving as on air host for NPR affiliate,WCQS FM Asheville, NC.
1986-1987 - Toured and recorded with Patrick Sky.
1989 - Received the "Most Outstanding Performer" award at Asheville's Mountain Dance And Folk Festival. (Don was there as a performer and not entered in competition.)
1995 - Played music and appeared in the Miramax motion picture: "The Journey of August King"
1997 - Served as Chairman of the Folk Heritage Committee of the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce.
1998 - Received the Bacom Lamar Lunsford Award for "significant contributions" in Mountain Music. Sat on panels at the Old Time Music On The Radio Conference in Mount Airy, NC Featured on stage, television and in the video productions of the Mountain Legacy.
1999 - Appeared on CBS This Morning. Honored for preservation and perpetuation of traditional music at the Memphis Dulcimer Festival. Appeared on the Travel Network's Lonely Planet Played music and appeared in the Lion's Gate motion picture: “Songcatcher.”
2000-2002 - First taught a course, together with Jo Lunsford Heron (daughter of Bascom Lamar Lunsford) on the History of Appalachian Music and Dance, for the College For Seniors at The University of North Carolina at Asheville.
2002 - Played music for and appeared in the CBS pilot "Jo"
2003 - Represented Western North Carolina and the mountain dulcimer in the Appalachia Heritage and Harmony program at the 37th annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the National Mall in Washington, DC
2004 - Played on the Compendia Records compilation: Return to Cold Mountain.
2005 - Played music in the BBC documentary film "Appalachia: The Endless Forest".
2005-2007 - Played music in the Carpet Bag Theatre's: Tom Foolery, a live theatre production running three days a week in September and October at the annual Fall Festival at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina.
2009 - Featured in the documentary: "Why Old Time" Inaugural L. Allen Smith Visiting Artist at the Celebration of Traditional Music at Berea College in Berea, Kentucky.