Wilson Douglas on Ed Haley

by
Wilson Douglas

Wilson Douglas

from http://brandonraykirk.wordpress.com:

Douglas:  “I knew him way back in ’38, ’39. As you know, he was a resident of Ashland, Kentucky, and he was born in Logan County, West Virginia. Well, he would come up to Ivydale, West Virginia, by train and then he would ride over on up into Calhoun County with the mail carrier. And he would get a ride with somebody over to Laury Hicks’, like with an old gentleman who used to be a country doctor, Dr. White. And while he was up in Calhoun County and Clay County, we’d go ever night – if we could get there anyway – and he’d play that fiddle about four or five hours at a time. Well, he’d go back to Ashland and stay a couple of months. I guess he was playing somewhere around in Kentucky. And then along in the fall he’d come back and maybe stay a month and then he’d catch the train to Logan County.”

I asked Wilson if he played a lot with Ed and he said, “Oh, well. No, I didn’t play a lot with him. I was just beginning to fiddle, you know, and he was my idol of a fiddler player. He mostly inspired me to fiddle, him and David French Carpenter of Clay County, West Virginia. I’m going to tell you, that there album [Parkersburg Landing] don’t give him credit.”

I asked Wilson if he remembered any of Ed’s tunes and he said, “Oh god, he played all the old tunes. Well, as you know, they all played the ‘Billy in the Lowground’, the ‘Tennessee Wagner’. I play one of Haley’s tunes: he called it the ‘Morning Flower’. Played in the key of A. I’ll have to think. Well, as you know, he called the ‘Stony Point’, the ‘Gilroy’. I learned that off of him. You know, all these tunes has got four or five different titles. And I played a little bit of his ‘Devil’s Dream’. He would play that to get warmed up.”

Did you ever hear him play “Blackberry Blossom”? I asked.

“Oh, by god yeah,” he said. “I remember him playing that. You know, Ed Haley told me he could hear a tune twice and play it, and I believe it.”

I said to Wilson, “Now, Ed Haley improvised a lot, didn’t he? Like take a tune and play it different kinda ways.”

“Well, he could play it about any way,” he said. “I’ll tell you what. He’d do a lot of that to show his skill, I think, but when you settled him down he didn’t vary the bow from one time to another. Now where they’s a gang of fiddlers around, you know, a little distant to him, trading tunes and messing around, he would show them up. I don’t think he did it just to be smart: he did it to show them that he could do it, you know. And what I liked about him: if he heard somebody play a tune, they’d say, ‘Well now Ed, am I getting it?’ And he’d say, ‘No, you’re not getting it.’ And if you were to get it, he’d say, ‘Yeah, that’s good enough. Drop it. Don’t try to do it no better than that.’ I liked that. He went straight to the point, and he told it like it was. If a fiddler got to fiddling too fast, he’d say, ‘Well, you’re losing the soul.’ Oh, he’d just cuss. Only tune to my knowledge that he really played fast was ‘Forked Deer’.”

I asked Wilson what he remembered about Ed’s bowing and he said, “Now, he played a long straight bow, but he put in the bow whatever the tune required. Every tune requires a different bow technique, as you know. Oh God, he played a long shuffle bow. I always thought he had the longest fiddle bow I’d ever seen. You know, he could tell if a fiddler was playing the short bow. He’d say, ‘Well son, don’t hold your bow up in the middle. Catch back on the frog of the bow. By god, you need to have bow if you’re gonna play that kind of music.’”

I asked Wilson if he thought Vassar Clements’ bowing was anything like Ed’s and he said, “No, no. By god, no. No, not in my book. Now, you know everybody’s entitled to his own opinion.”

Did Ed play with a tight or loose bow?

“He played a half-tight bow. He didn’t want any bouncing or want any wobbling.”

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One Response to “Wilson Douglas on Ed Haley”

  1. Thom Hickey Says:

    Fascinating stuff … I will follow from now on … Regards …. Thom

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