I played a little for Wilson over the telephone to see what he thought of my bow stroke and he said, “You’ve got a lot of nice bow technique there. Now, that’s very close to Haley. Now, he plays a longer bow, but now you’re right on it as well as I remember. That’s the first time I’ve been reminded of him since ’55. You know, he died in ’55.” Hearing that made me feel good about my Scotch snap theory regarding Ed’s bowing, which I had been wearing out at home, although I noted that Wilson was off four years on Ed’s death date.
Wilson said Ed played for dances all over Calhoun County.
“Now when he got in a square dance where they was wound up, he played ‘Pigeon on the Gate’. That was a odd fiddle tune. He said it came out of Missouri somewhere. He’d play all night, you know. I believe he had more endurance at a dance than I used to have when I was younger. I’ve been around him when he would play for hours and never play the same tune twice, unless it was requested by somebody. But now what amazed me, he would play all night and maybe not play the same tune twice. And he told me, he said, ‘I know over a thousand fiddle tunes’.”
I wondered if Ed drank at those dances, as Mona had said he was wont to do.
“Now, if anybody had any alcoholic beverages around them places, they always kept that hid until after the fiddling session was over,” Wilson said. “If Haley took one drink of liquor, he could not play a bit. He would sort of get a chip on his shoulder and then he’d become violent, too. However, I could understand that. The man was blind and maybe he would go through a depressing stage.”
Ed was deeply depressed during World War II, Wilson said, because his sons were away in the fighting.
“We would go over to this place to hear him fiddle and he would not play one bit till I informed him what all Hitler was a doing, what the U.S. was doing, where all they were invading.”
Wilson’s memories of Ed’s family were limited.
“I saw one of his boys one time and I didn’t talk to him too much. He didn’t seem interested in music.”
I asked Wilson if Ed ever told any stories and he said, “Na, he wouldn’t tell you nothing or he wouldn’t show ya nothing. He was real touchy, you know. You had to be careful not to punch the wrong buttons. He did not have the patience to show you anything on the violin. He wouldn’t show you where to slow up and show you no notes. He just wanted you to listen and think about it. He said a man ought to comprehend a tune and if he heard it a few times he ought to start at the outer edge of it and then finally it will dawn on you what to do. He said, ‘If you’re determined enough, you’ll finally get it.’ And in them days, you know, there was no tape recorders, so you just had to hear it over and over and do the best you could. I kind of believe his theory: I think fiddle playing is a gift and if you ain’t got a little of the gift, I don’t think you’ll get it.”