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Jonathan or Jay Round?

I have heard of references to Jay Round and his hammered dulcimer playing for many years. He’s been a professional musician for 41 of his 54 years and has played all over the world! It was at the Arkansas Folk Festival in the early 70’s where Jay met Grand Ole Opry star Grandpa Jones who took a liking to Jay’s upright bass playing. Grandpa Jones invited Jay to Nashville in October 1973 during the taping of Hee-Haw and hired him to play bass with his band throughout the latter half of the 1970’s.


Jay Round


Jay recorded his first record album using the hammered dulcimer in 1974, and three others followed. During this time Jay was also the opening act for several Nashville stars including Hank Snow, Ernest Tubb, Crystal Gayle, Little Jimmy Dickens, and Dotty West throughout the United States and Canada. In 1984-85 the United States Department of Defense hired Jay to join the band Trans-Mason-Dixon Interplanetary Pickers for an extended concert tour of military sites throughout Asia, northern Africa, and Europe.

From the mid 80’s to the mid 90’s Jay became more involved with audio production, working the sound system for such well known acts as the Marshall Tucker Band, Captain and Tenille, Neil Sedaka, Frankie Valle and the Four Seasons, and many others.

Recently, he played with his band, 13th Hour, at a concert in Comstock Park, Michigan.  After seeing him play, I mentioned his name in an article which I wrote about this event, but mistakenly called him Jonathan Round, admittedly without giving it too much thought, let alone proof reading the article carefully for errors before posting it on our website. Within a week it was brought to my attention that I had made this error, so we corrected Jay’s name in the article. But I began to wonder how I made this mistake in the first place?  Why would I call him Jonathan instead of Jay Round?

Then I began to recall a concert poster that I had seen in the Digital Collections on the GVSU website which advertised Jonathan Round playing with Carly Simon on January 22 1972 at Grand Valley State College and realized that I had inadvertently assumed that Jay was the same musician!

At that point I decided to write to Jay and tell him about my mistake. I wrote:

“Hi Jay,

I’m curious if I have you mixed up with another musician? There was a Jonathan Round that played a concert at Grand Valley on Jan. 22 1972. You are probably a very different person, correct?

I have heard about you being connected with the hammered dulcimer for many years, but you look too young to be the same man advertised for this show.”

Here’s how Jay graciously responded:

“You have brought up a common misconception that affected both of us through the years.  My real name is Jay Round.  I was born in Grand Rapids in 1957.  Jonathan Round was born John Mariotto in Detroit in 1949.  He changed his name to Round because of his heavyset “round” figure.  Jonathan was an amazing performer with a killer version of the Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy For The Devil”.  Both of us were gigging throughout the Midwest in the 1970s and 80s.  Oftentimes when Jonathan played a show somewhere the review would mistakenly credit me and when I played a concert the review would credit him.  Very confusing and frustrating. In the late 70’s, after I had played a gig in Detroit, I was headed through the Motor City and saw a marquis advertising a midnight show at The Attic with Jonathan Round.  It was 11:30pm so I pulled in, ran upstairs, showed my ID at the ticket window, and urgently requested to see my “brother” Jonathan. The same last name got me into his dressing room for a meeting.  I looked at him and said, “Jonathan Round, I’m Jay Round.”  We both started laughing, hugging, and catching up on all the craziness.  He asked if I had my hammered dulcimer with me (I did) and invited me to join him on the show that night.  It was a very special moment for me and the only time we were ever together. Jonathan moved to Central City Colorado in the early 90’s.  After a heart attack and period of failing health he passed away on February 16, 2009.”

Jay plays Bass for a Band called “13th Hour” See gig dates at their website: www.13thhourmusic.com

Tidbit story by Kim Rush

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