Like many successful business owners, Ray and Sue Mooers started Dusty Strings in the basement of their rented house. Now, 35 years later, they have built an iconic music store and are known around the world for their acoustic instruments.
Harp Column: I have so many questions that I want to ask you, but I want to start by asking, what’s behind the name “Dusty Strings?”
Sue Mooers: [laughs]It was tongue in cheek at first.
Ray Mooers: When you’re trying to name your fledgling company, you put down a whole list of options. Among them were Pacific Dulcimer Company, Cascade Dulcimer Company, Rainier Dulcimers, and, down the list, Dusty Strings. We talked about how dusty the shop was and since the shop was in our home our home was dusty as well. But Dusty Strings then expanded to be more of a metaphor for the folk music revival at the time, really. People would find [dulcimers]under the bed or in the attic and they were blowing the dust off literally and tuning the instruments up to play music. It’s really kind of a metaphor for this.
HC: The story of how you happened into making hammered dulcimers is a great one, so you have to share it with our readers who don’t know how it all transpired.
RM: We were just wandering this folk festival, and the amazing thing about it is that we could have taken a right turn and listened to some music over here but we took a left turn and encountered this guy playing a hammered dulcimer. Which, I mean, that was the tipping point. That was what led us down this path.
SM: And that was in ’77. The chance encounter—it’s mind-blowing to think back, all of what flows from that. But we didn’t know for a while what [the dulcimer]even was until he was taking a class.