(MP3 - 524K)
1883-1951 - East Kentucky/West Virginia
"Ed" Haley was born in 1883 on Hart's Creek in Logan County,
West Virginia. Haley, who was a blind professional fiddler, never recorded
commercially during his lifetime; he was afraid that the record companies
would take advantage of a blind man. However, there were recordings made
by Haley's son Ralph on a home disc-cutting machine. When Ralph died,
the recordings were evenly divided among the five remaining children.
It is believed that the 106 sides which remain are only about one third
of those recorded.Most of these have been issued on CD by Rounder Records
on two 2-CD sets. The digital rejuvenation of these disks is remarkable.
Haley, who was often accompanied by his wife Martha, who was also blind
and played mandolin, traveled to fiddle contests and small towns throughout
West Virginia and Kentucky. Before the depression, he made as much as
twenty dollars a day. But Haley would also play special requests for people
who loved fiddling but had no money to pay for it. One of Haley's lifelong
friends was an Ivydale physicial named Laury Hicks. Shortly before he
died, Hicks requested that he be able to hear Ed Haley one more time.
Ed arrived too late, and it is said that he played over Laury's grave
for hours into the night.
In regard to his own fiddling, Haley was not particularly vain, although
he was aware that he could put "slurs and insults" into a tune
in a manner that set him apart from all other fiddlers. "I like to
flavor up a tune," he told Cecil Williamson, "so that nobody
in the world could tell what I'm playing.. And he sometimes wished that
"someone might pattern after me a little when I'm dead." Today,
many young fiddlers such as Brad Leftwich from Indiana and Bruce Molsky
from Virginia, have proficiently learned Haley's tunes.
Haley died of a heart attack on February 4, 1951 at his home in Ashland,
Clark Kessinger considered Ed Haley to be the finest fiddler he had ever
heard. Molly O' Day says that his playing was unearthly, like music from
another world. J.P. Fraley tells how Haley's fingers seemed to possess
a life of their own when he played, as if little men were running across
the fingerboard of his violin. One old-timer, after hearing Haley play
"Bonaparte's Retreat", declared that "if two armies could
come together and hear him play that music, they'd kill themselves in
from the original LP liner notes by Mark Wilson and Guthrie T. Meade
Records released two incredible double CDs of Ed Haley's fiddling: Volume
1 (Forked Deer) and Volume
2 (Grey Eagle). These are home recordings that had deteriorated
dramatically, but thanks to the efforts of Bob Carlin & Rounder, they
have been lovingly restored. A few of the tracks are unavoidably rough,
but it's well worth it to hear Haley's astounding fiddling.