CHAPTER 4: Dulcimers in the British Isles since 1800 > Dulcimers in London

On stage

However, London dulcimer-players were by no means all street musicians.

In his 1904 lecture on the history of the piano, Southgate had referred to dulcimers being played "by bands dressed up in the foreign style to deceive fashionable folks"(5), and Ted Carr remembers a player in the same tradition. His real name was Jimmy Arnold, and by turning his surname round he had arrived at a stage name of 'de Lonra'; he dressed up in 'national costume', inspired by an idea that the dulcimer had a Hungarian flavour - although it seems that the instrument wasn't actually was a cimbalom - because in those days, before the War, "if you didn't have a costume nobody would listen to you, no matter what you sounded like".

Sometime around this period, a policeman named William Carter was an active player in Leyton, East London; he was inevitably called 'Nick', after the fictional detective Nick Carter. His father had given him the family dulcimer - supposed to have been made from an old bedstead - for his 21st birthday, and he played it with hammers standing at a table. He was "always a performer if they wanted any shows", and he mostly played at charity concerts and the like; he did not play in pubs or busk, because being in the Police "he wasn't allowed to do anything".

His repertoire consisted of old tunes like Under the Double Eagle and 'breakdowns' - "that's a succession of broken-up chords, you do it a lot on the banjo: they're not like proper tunes" - and he normally played solo: "there was no other instruments around to play, they only had brass bands, didn't they? ... banjos, they had, no guitars, though... "