Syracuse, NY luthier Harry Eibert recently sent me pics of his latest creation – an elaborate tenor harp ukulele. Harry’s the guy who way back built the first modern harp-uke with actual sub-bass strings – that beautiful “dolphin-bridge” instrument for collector Chuck Fayne. This one increases the scale (17″), the number of strings on the neck (6, with 2 being doubled as in an old traditional variant – tuned to C ), and the number of subs (6), which are tuned to whatever crazy system the owner chooses. The new owner (equally crazy, I think) is the infamous (if you know where to look) “Dobro Dick” Dilloff, a multi-string player and genuine original who lives somewhere in Montana (in the middle of nowhere, I suspect).
He’s one of those guys I often hear about, but are difficult to track down – the off-the-beaten-path collector of rare instruments that, wouldn’t you know it, has Knutsen and other harp guitars and related instruments. His collection actually reminds me a bit of John Doan’s (and my own, I suppose – he’s even got a Dolceola) – lots of Americana, including various fretless zithers, and then various fretted instruments, which veer into harp guitar territory. He plays them all as well, his specialty being slide guitar (his well-reviewed Dobro playing appears on various records).
Here’s Dick in his music room with his first Eibert harp-uke, a black top, 6-on-the-neck version of Harry’s original instrument. Dick really loves the “Knutsen black top” look – he’d actually been after me to draw up my Knutsen harp mandolin for Harry to build him a copy…I guess he got tired of waiting, and they came up with the tenor harp uke instead (better having the variety, I’d say!).
And here’s my favorite photo from Dick: another shot of his music room:
2 of the 4 Knutsens are new to the Archives, I believe, and the Dyer has…hmmm, 7 subs? (we still have to figure that one out)! What isn’t shown is a whole arsenal of new instruments that he plays professionally. I read about them in a great interview with Dick recently posted online here. Don’t miss the video, song clips and slide show (fascinating character, isn’t he?). Harry says “He certainly can play rags great on (the harp-uke)! You really should invite Dick to come and play at a Harp Guitar Gathering sometime.”
Sounds like a great idea, Harry!