Edward Lee “Edd” Presnell was born January 24, 1916, in Banner Elk, North Carolina, to Nathan and Sarah Presnell. Edd was best known around the Beech Mountain area for his woodworking skills and beautiful dulcimers. He learned to build the instrument from his father-in-law, Ben Hicks, and uncle-in-law, Roby Hicks, and was inspired as well by luthier John Hicks’ dulcimer designs.
Beginning in the 1950s and through the mid 1970s, Edd built somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,100 dulcimers, and his instruments remain prized today for their beauty and fine sound. According to Edd, he was the first dulcimer builder in the area to use woods other than poplar in his construction when he built a dulcimer from curly maple. He also used birdseye maple, cherry, chestnut, rosewood, cedar, and elm over the years.
Edd and his wife, Nettie Hicks Presnell, were married for nearly 60 years before Edd’s passing in August of 1994. Nettie too was a great dulcimer builder, descending from a family of luthiers. In 1974, Edd and Nettie shared the Brown-Hudson Folklore Award for their dulcimer making and woodworking.
– TJ Smith
Folkways: Edd Presnell, Dulcimer Maker (a film by Thomas G. Burton and Jack Schrader)
Blue Ridge National Heritage Area Traditional Artist Directory profile