View Full Version : new book out soon: Dwight Diller, West Virginia Mountain Musician

Apr-11-2016, 2:34am
NFI on my part,
thought some of you might enjoy this book on Dwight Diller. if you've never heard of him, do a google search and I'm sure you will find a lot of info. couple years ago I spent a week at Dwights home and immersed myself in his tales, tunes, and thoughts-all centered around the music he learned as he grew up in the West Virginia mountains. The Hammons family played huge in Dwights life, and he has continued to convey his thoughts on the music and lives of this family.

Dwight has a particular style of playing clawhammer, it has a very particular rhythm that is hard to mistaken. its a very organic type of music.

here is a link to the book that's coming out soon, the writer is Lew Stern(interesting man with a very interesting background himself).

here are some interesting links to the Hammons family that inspired Dwight:


Here's what Lew had to say about the book:

I’d like to try to answer the question of why I wrote this book.
For the past 40 years, Dwight has worked to preserve the old banjo and fiddle tunes and local stories, capture in his own music what he learned the music from elders who played this music, and teach this kind of archaic banjo and fiddle music to students prepared to invest the time and energy necessary to grasp this old, percussive, primitively rhythmic music.

My book is an attempt to tell the story of how Dwight, who has wrestled long and hard with depression and other challenges, integrated these several paths, and how decades of teaching music became the way he sought to show how music might offer hope and guide us to what we should be.

Why did I decide to push forward with this writing project?

The reason is this: For me, Dwight made music accessible, and legitimized my desire to want music.

He made playing banjo accessible to me, enabled me to break the code, and to do so in a way that was possible given my own personal constraints, my own capabilities.

He made it so that I could listen to something, find the center of gravity of the music, and figure out a way to get to it on my banjo. For me. Quietly. In the company of my hounds, in a way that made me happy.

I could not learn in the classes taught by others. I could not keep dozen tunes taught in most banjo classes in my crowded brain.

I could not haul along a tape recorder, and study repertoire taught at classes. I couldn’t do that. I could not follow a teacher’s fingers, figure out the notes, make my way through the technique, and come up with something I could do. If I could “do” it, play it, I might still not “know” the music. My brain had too much to do, and my whole body had too much to remember. I had no room for that.

But Dwight found a way to give me room enough that I could make a music that moved me, that fit nicely with my life. Simple. Percussive. Rhythmic. Easy to understand. I could get to that stuff, I could do that work, and I could learn that.

I did not have time for the other way of acquiring tunes. I could barely keep my languages in my brain. I could barely compartmentalize all the information, the Standard Operating Procedures, and the issues that dominated my life.

But with Dwight I found a way to quietly, slowly, surely figure out the core of a music, the anatomy of a tune, and get done what I needed to in order to have music in my life.

So, the story of what he did in teaching is important to me because it gave me hope that I had some room left in my life for something else.

Dwight uses the phrase “the tunes are not the music” to focus attention on what he is trying to impart in his classes.

My sense is that to Dwight, music is the rhythm and the inspiration, the internal feeling transmitted in playing, and perhaps the integral “cultural message,” combined – but “playing music” to Dwight does not entail having a massive arsenal of individual songs or tune versions. Quantity is not important. Quality is, and a carefully played tune, a version mastered technically and integrated into one’s life – so it resonates with every fiber and clings to thoughts, and insinuates its way into your quiet thinking moments – that is how Dwight thinks of what a tune means to one’s music.

That approach gave me hope that I could find room somewhere in my life for this old music.

* * *
I will leave you with a video of Dwight from a couple years ago, and then one more recent. I have sent Lew a note to come and join us here, he is in the process of moving right this moment, so give him some time to respond and be present.

This video is what captured me early one midwinter night(around 3am). I found it by accident, and within days I had contacted Dwight for instruction.




Apr-15-2016, 6:36am
Interesting!! I also live in WV. Looking forward to reading this book.

May-17-2016, 6:58pm
just received my copy today-its excellent!

lots of info and history of WestVirginia Mountain Music, and Dwight. Highly recommended.