Appalachia, banjo, Big Rock Candy Mountain, bowing, Calhoun County Blues, Carroll County Blues, Ed Haley, fiddler, fiddling, Ghost Riders in the Sky, Hell Among the Yearlings, history, John Hartford, Mona Haley, music, Pretty Polly, Soutwood Mountain, Sweet Betsy from Pike, Ugee Postalwait
Talking about Ed’s records caused me to ask Mona about his technique and tunes. She said her father was a long bower – that he used “one end of the bow to the other,” except on songs requiring short, quick strokes. Interestingly, she had no recollection of him ever “rocking” the fiddle while playing (as is so fondly remembered by some eyewitnesses) and said he patted his foot softly in half-time (never picking up his whole foot and stomping). He didn’t keep a chin rest on his fiddle because “it got in his way.”
Mona said Ed knew “millions” of pieces, including “Hell Among the Yearlings” (her favorite), “Big Rock Candy Mountain” and “Sourwood Mountain”. She recognized “Carroll County Blues” (what Ugee Postalwait called “Calhoun County Blues”) as a Haley tune when I played it for her. She said Ed played “Pretty Polly” and “Sweet Betsy from Pike” drop-thumb style on the banjo (no fingerpicks). He loved “Ghost Riders in the Sky” — which he never could learn — and would say of the tune, “Lord god almighty, would you listen to that?” When Ed thought about or heard a tune he liked, Mona said he would pat his hands together.