1935 – 2015
It should come as no surprise that Clifford Glenn, being the son of Leonard Glenn and great-grandson of Eli Presnell, became one of the most respected instrument builders ever to come out of Watauga County. To this day, Clifford’s dulcimers and banjos remain highly sought after by musicians around the world.
He began building instruments around 1954 at the age of 19. As fate would have it, his career as a luthier began just as the Folk Revival was gaining speed. Clifford and his father were soon inundated with orders for dulcimers and banjos, often through neighbor and musician Frank Proffitt. Clifford was successful enough to take up instrument-building full time, though he maintained a small crop of tobacco and kept up a kitchen garden for food.
Clifford and his wife Maybelle Presnell Glenn were married in 1964 and had one daughter, Lisa Mae. Maybelle and Lisa Mae both took up the dulcimer and enjoyed playing Clifford’s instruments. They were all regulars at Jack Guy’s store. According to folklorist Mark Freed, Clifford had an unusual banjo and dulcimer playing style that relied on his index finger to keep the rhythm while his pinky finger picked out the melody.
Clifford Glenn passed away in 2015 at the age of 79.
– TJ Smith
Blue Ridge National Heritage Area Traditional Artist Directory profile