In the early 1970's, Quintin's father, the great dulcimer player, Ed Stephens, was walking by a little shop in Berea, Kentucky. Out of this shop came strains of music with a haunting drone that he couldn't get out of his head. Returning to the shop, he purchased his first Mountain Dulcimer -- a little cherry hourglass dulcimer built by Warren May.
After a couple of years went by, Ed had acquired a multiple of dulcimers from the likes of Homer Ledford, Warren May, and Bonnie Carol. As his playing improved, he began to go to more and more dulcimer festivals.
This is where Quintin came in.
At the tender age of eight, Quintin was recruited to be "go-fer", dulcimer bell-hop, and human address book to accompany Ed to various dulcimer festivals around the country. "I remember my first time at the festival at Cosby, TN," Quintin related, "My sister, Alyson, and I were relegated to the tent, eating Spam and drinking hot Seven-Up -- our job was to cart things up and down the mountain and to stay out of the way. The thing was, you can't sit around in a tent surrounded by the likes of Robin Mohun, Ben Wade, Willie Jaeger, Fred Meyer, Doug Birch, Alan Freeman and Steve Mayfield without absorbing something." After this festival, Quintin got his first dulcimer, a Magic Mountain dulcimer from somewhere out in California, and began playing. He already knew many tunes in his head, and now he coaxed them from the dulcimer.
In 1976, at the age of ten, Quintin played on stage for the first time in a Bicentennial Pageant for his elementary school. After that, Quintin traveled to festivals with his Dad and started taking dulcimer workshops; learning from many of the early greats such as Jean Ritchie and John Jacob Niles, and some the "new" greats such as David Schnaufer.
In the late 1970's, Quintin's dad, Ed, stumbled across some dulcimer recordings that were to change the course of their dulcimer playing entirely -- "Crossover" and "The Art of Dulcimer" by Robert Force and Albert d'Ossche'. "Wow, we had no idea that the dulcimer could be played that way! Dad had played saxophone in a Jazz band when he was in high school and was a great lover of Latin and African music and rhythm. These Force and d'Ossche' records hit him right between the eyes." Ed sat on his screened-in porch at home and spent a whole year completely re-vamping his style, with Quintin sitting right there with him. "I was lucky," Quintin said, "I was still playing with a noter and my style wasn't as solid as Dad's was. He had to go back and re-start from scratch, I just had to do some minor adaptations. Unfortunately, at that time we had never seen Force and d'Ossche' perform, so we didn't know that they played standing up. Learning their style in a sit-down postion made it doubly hard."
In 1980, Quintin entered high school where, predicatably, dulcimer wasn't "cool." So, Quintin started going by his first name "Richard", and shifted over to autoharp and banjo. He continued traveling to festivals and giving workshops with his father in the early eighties, but dropped out of dulcimer for a while.
After graduating from high school and hitting his first year of college, Quintin fell in love with the guitar -- especially blues guitar. Quintin dedicated many hours to learning standard and bottleneck slide blues guitar, and he and his father started giving blues workshops for both guitar and dulcimer.
Finally, in 1986, Quintin and Ed got to see Robert Force and Al d'Ossche' in concert at the Great Black Swamp festival in Lima, Ohio and they were bowled over. "Listening to their albums and playing their music, as we had for years, is one thing; but, man, seeing them in concert was something else -- we were blown away!"
So Quintin decided to pick up the dulcimer once more, started going by his "real" name again, and off they went.
Unfortunately, in 1989, Ed Stephens passed away, leaving Quintin with no playing partner. "I had always know that my oldest sister, Minann, was a dulcimer player, also; and that she had gone to many festivals with Dad in the early years. I just didn't know how good she was, or that she played the Force and d'Ossche' stuff, too." Shortly after Ed's death, Quintin and Minann started playing together intensely and started giving workshops together. In 1990, Minann, Quintin, and their brother, Bill (who is a flute player), formed a group they called "Balderdash" and toured together for a couple of years.
By about the mid-1990's, with Quintin living in Oklahoma, Minann living in Alabama, and Bill living in New Orleans, it became harder and harder to get together to play. Plus, Albert d'Ossche' had passed away in 1992 and the Force/d'Ossche' style began to disappear from the dulcimer circuit. So, once again, Quintin was set adrift.
Quintin spent a few years hitting occasional festivals, enhancing his style with guitar techniques and making his own music on his own back porch, but constantly itching for another player to fuel the fire. Then, in 1998, he made it out to the Kindred Gathering Festival near Seattle, Washington. Here... Here, finally, Quintin got to meet and play with Robert Force himself. "Man, it was like gasoline on a bonfire! I had been looking for and wishing for someone to play with for years -- someone who played the same music and style as I did. And, son-of-a-gun he drove the passion back into me like I had never had it before." Fired up like a jet engine, Quintin returned home with a new dedication to the instrument, hitting as many festivals as he could and meeting up with Robert as often as he could to keep his batteries charged.
In 2003, Quintin put out a solo album of his own original songs and tunes written over the last 10 to 12 years. These songs range from Salsa and Reggae, to Waltz and Lullaby, to whatever. A wide selection of dulcimer music in the contemporary style.
A second generation Mountain dulcimer player who stands on the shoulders of giants...
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