Dennis Omer “Dent” Wimmer (1908-1979) was one of nine children born to Thomas Fleming Wimmer and Hattie DeWeese Wimmer of Copper Hill in Floyd, County. Thomas Wimmer was a fiddle player, and he passed his talent for string music to his son Dent. Dent started playing the banjo at age 12 or 13 in the clawhammer (or as he called it the ‘Thrash Down’ style) on a fretless banjo. He grew up in a community where old-time banjo was played for pleasure and personal entertainment in a similar style, and frequently in accompaniment to frolics that prominently featured flatfoot dancing. Dent learned several of his banjo tunes from John, Dink, and Dan Smith from Green Creek near Calloway, Franklin County, and had heard the music of black banjoist Harrison Claytor, who Dent heard on rare occasions playing banjo in public spaces such as country stores.
Sometime in the 1930s, Dent met fiddle player Sam Connor, and the two attended the Floyd County Fiddlers convention held in the town of Floyd. They are identified in a group photo taken of the attendees and contestants behind the original Floyd County courthouse. Also in this time, Dent would play for frolics where dance games were popular; most likely, the two would have played together for certain follicles or ‘workings’ and shared a repertoire of tunes. Dent Wimmer was also one of the local musicians who had an opportunity to sit in with Charlie Poole (1892-1931) at the old theater in Floyd. Dent was seventeen when Poole’s band, the North Carolina Ramblers, recorded their hit “Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down Blues” in 1925. The Ramblers then began traveling and performing full-time for dances, programs and fiddlers’ conventions around the region. A number of these trips brought them from Franklin County into Floyd by way of Shooting Creek.
While the middle portion of his musical career is largely undocumented, music collector Tom Carter visited Dent in March 1974 at Dent’s home in the Payne’s Creek section of Floyd, County. Here, Carter recorded 19 songs, some purely banjo and some with Dent singing, though Carter ’s recordings were never commercially produced. In 1976, Round Records issued a two-volume Old Originals LP set; it included two songs by Dent Wimmer, one by Sam Connor, and two by Wimmer and Connor together.
Then in 2002, both Dent and Sam were featured on a four-volume CD set called Far in the Mountain released by British record label Traditions Records. Folklorist Michael Yates collected and recorded music of the Appalachian mountains and passed through Floyd County in August of 1979, mere months before Dent passed away. In the liner notes to the album’s first volume, Yates says that he first recorded Sam Connor at Connor’s home in Copper Hill. At Sam’s insistence, the two then went to visit Dent who had just had just gotten out of the hospital after an operation. Despite his initial reservations, Yates described their duets as “breathtaking.” Scott Prouty, a Washington DC reviewer said of these recordings, “Mr. Wimmer played some of the hardest driving banjo I’ve ever heard in a style characterized by a strong down beat and few (if any) drop thumbs. His style was made for dancing to, and his duet with Sam Connor on ‘Don’t get Trouble in Mind’ exemplifies that tradition.”
Dent passed away in 1979.