Appalachia, banjo, fiddle, fiddle contest, fiddling, guitar, history, Huntingon, J.N. Kenny, music, old-time music, The Kenney Music Company, Tri-State Music Festival, West Virginia
13 Saturday Feb 2021
Posted Huntington, Musicin
23 Wednesday Dec 2020
Posted Huntington, Musicin
20 Saturday Jun 2020
Posted Big Sandy Valley, Hatfield-McCoy Feud, Musicin
21 Saturday Sep 2019
A Prairie Home Companion, Appalachia, Appalachian Heritage Day, banjo, bluegrass, Bobby Osborne, Branson, Braxton County, Buddy Griffin, Charlie Sizemore, Cincinnati, David O'Dell, fiddler, fiddling, Glenville State College, Goins Brothers, guitar, Jackie Whitley, Jeff Roberts, Jim and Jesse McReynolds, Katie Laur Band, Landon Williams, Larry Sparks, Logan, Mac Wiseman, mandolin, Missouri, music, Nicholas County, photos, Robert C. Byrd, Rocky Top X-Press, Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College, The Hard Times, Vandalia Award, Vetco Records, West Virginia, West Virginia All-Star Bluegrass Band, Wheeling, WWVA Jamboree
A native of Nicholas and Braxton counties, Buddy Griffin is a master musician on several instruments and a dedicated teacher and mentor. Raised in a musical family, Buddy began performing at an early age, excelling at banjo, fiddle, guitar, and mandolin. In 1973, he was hired in the staff band on the WWVA Jamboree in Wheeling, where he came into contact with Landon Williams, who lured him to Cincinnati to play in his band, The Hard Times. He and banjoist Jeff Roberts joined the Katie Laur Band in 1975. Buddy also played with the Goins Brothers. He later worked as an engineer at Vetco Records in Cincinnati and played in Charlie Sizemore’s band. He recorded with Mac Wiseman and has worked with Jim and Jesse, Larry Sparks, the Heckels, Sen. Robert C. Byrd, and Jesse McReynolds. He played in Branson, MO, for several years. In 1997, he returned to West Virginia and taught music at Glenville State College, where he was instrumental in developing the world’s first degree program in bluegrass music. He is a studio musician and has performed on various radio shows, including NPR’s “A Prairie Home Companion.” In 2011, he was awarded the Vandalia Award, West Virginia’s highest folklife honor. In 2016, he played fiddle with Bobby Osborne and the Rocky Top X-Press. He often performs with the West Virginia All-Star Bluegrass Band.
23 Tuesday Jul 2019
12 Wednesday Aug 2015
Posted John Hartford, Musicin
26 Friday Jun 2015
Posted John Hartfordin
banjo, bluegrass music, Brandon Kirk, country music, fiddle, fiddler, history, John Hartford, life, Madison, Marie Hartford, music, Tennessee, writers, writing
Let me try to describe John’s hands. They were very small in every way. He had frail hands as a gentleman might have, with little hair on them. I don’t recall that his fingers were unusually long. His knuckles were slightly larger than his actual fingers, maybe because his fingers were so thin. He kept his fingernails clean and filed smooth with a file. I remember he often filed his nails while on the bus during road trips; sometimes he filed his nails when conversations barely held his interest, half-listening. He absolutely never bit his fingernails. He seldom used his hands for any type of physical work because he didn’t want to risk hurting them; they were, he said, what paid the bills. The skin on his hands was somewhat loose and pale. When you shook his hand, it was very soft, although I’m sure he had slight callouses on the ends of his left hand fingers from playing the fiddle nearly every waking minute of the day. When I first met John at Morrow Library, he shook my hand and insisted that I call him John, not Mr. Hartford. When I later visited his home in Nashville during the summer for weeks or a month, before I had moved to Nashville, he would always shake my hand before I left for West Virginia. I recall at the end of my first trip how he stood in his driveway between his house and the guest house and remarked that we shouldn’t say goodbye because we would see each other again. John did not particularly like goodbyes; he preferred until next times. At the end of his life, upon commencement of his chemotherapy, he would shake very few people’s hand. Due to the chemotherapy, he was particularly concerned about germs. At that time, we shared a laptop and I always took care to clean the keys with alcohol before passing the laptop to him for manuscript review. I did this because I did not want to pass germs and make him ill; he never asked me to do it. Actually, I recall times he told me that it wasn’t necessary, but I did it anyway. Almost always, if he met someone at an event, they would greet him with a handshake, which he had to decline. It was awkward and in a peculiar way I think he enjoyed it. I may be mistaken, but it seems as if he contemplated or did in fact wear gloves for a short time just for handshakes. On a few occasions, he complained about having shaken hands with stout men who nearly crushed his hand; he detested an unnecessarily firm handshake because he said it might affect his ability to play. Later, after I moved to Nashville and visited and stayed many days and nights in his home I observed and he said that one of his favorite things to do was to sit with Marie on the bedroom couch at night and hold her hand while the two of them watched television. These were, of course, private moments and I only intruded if I had a question about the manuscript or a related matter. John’s wrists were small. He never wore a watch on his wrist, preferring instead to keep a pocket watch – usually tucked in his overalls front pocket or in the pocket of his vest, which he nearly always wore. If I remember correctly, his watch was colored gold, not silver. When I think of his hands, I see them holding a fiddle and bow at the dining room table and on stage, I see them moving across a banjo, I see them holding a fork and knife at dinner, I see them placing tiles on a Scrabble board during our games together, I see them holding a glass of red wine late at night during our conversations, I see them holding a book or a magazine at the couch by the fireplace, I see them gripping the wheel of his Cadillac on our way to Piccadilly Cafeteria, I see them pushing PLAY and turning up the volume on his car stereo…
30 Thursday Apr 2015
Posted East Lynn, Lincoln County Feud, Music, Stiltnerin
Appalachia, banjo, Blood in West Virginia, Cain Adkins, culture, East Lynn, Gospel, guitar, Harts Creek, Lincoln County, Lincoln County Feud, music, Spicie Frye, Stiltner, The Adkins Family, U.S. South, Wayne County, West Fork, West Virginia
The Adkins Family, operating out of Wayne County, West Virginia, is one of the Tri-State’s most talented, well-known, and enduring Gospel groups. You can read more about their musical history here: http://theadkinsfamily.waynewv.com/ I’m proud to say their ancestors once lived on the West Fork of Harts Creek in Lincoln County. I met many of them while researching my book, “Blood in West Virginia: Brumfield v. McCoy,” which details some of their family’s rich history. I encourage you to follow their Facebook page. If you enjoy Gospel music, you will not be disappointed. This is one amazing group of musicians. https://www.facebook.com/TheAdkinsFamilyGroup
27 Monday Apr 2015
Posted Ferrellsburg, Musicin
12 Sunday Apr 2015
Posted Big Harts Creekin
Appalachia, banjo, Daisy Adams, farming, fiddle, guitar, Harts Creek, history, Howard Adams, Logan County, music, square dances, U.S. South, West Virginia
This history of early life in Logan County, West Virginia, was written by Howard and Daisy Adams. Howard (1906-1976) and Daisy (b.1915) were children of Major and Belle Dora Adams of Trace Fork of Harts Creek. Titled “The life of pioneers during the latter half of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the 19th century” and written in the late 1960s or early 1970s, their history marks the only known attempt by local people to reconstruct the story of pioneer life. This part of the history includes information regarding industry, clearing of land, farming, and square dances.
The chief industries in those days were farming, raising stock, and timbering. Farming began with axes, saws, and mattocks all swinging. A good piece of land was chosen and clearing it began by chopping and sawing down all the trees on it. The trees had to be trimmed up. That was cutting off all the branches as limbs and putting them in big heaps or piles. The logs of the trees had to be sawed in lengths so they could be rolled together in piles for hauling. All small bushes were grubbed up and put on the brush piles. Clearing land was done mostly during winter months as soon as the land was cleared of all trees and brush and it piled up. Then began the burning of brush and logs. This usually took two or three days and it was hard work. After the burning off was completed, a nice big field or new ground as it was called was now the farmer’s pride. Planting began by sowing seed beds and planting vegetables. Corn was planted in late April or early May. Usually it was hoed two times, once when about 8 to 12 inches high and again when it was about 24 to 30 inches high. People in those days swapped work or had “corn hoeing.” Everybody for several miles around came to help at the workings or corn hoeing. The women came along, too. They usually had quilting parties and also helped with the cooking. Boy, they sure had plenty to eat at the big workings. They had chicken and dumplings, beans, bacon, onions, and corn dodger and lots of other eats from the farm. Everybody gathered around after the day’s work was over.
As soon as supper was over and the dishes washed and put away the beds were moved out of the room called the big house. Then the young men and young women began dancing. Square dancing was a thrilling experience. Some one who knew how called out the reels. The dancers then performed the instruction of the caller. A string band consisting of a fiddle, banjo, and sometimes a guitar furnished the music for the dance. They had refreshments of wine or liquor most all the men took part in the drinking. The girls seldom ever drank. If anyone got drunk he was put out of the dancing or off the floor as they called it. Sometimes the boys would have fist fights over the girls which never amounted to much. After the dance was over, the beds were put back in the big house room and the neighbors all said good night and went home tired and sleepy. All these things happened as time moved along.
28 Saturday Feb 2015
Posted Big Harts Creek, Culture of Honor, Music, Shivelyin
31 Sunday Aug 2014
Posted Ed Haley, John Hartford, Musicin
Arthur Smith, banjo, Ben Walker, Benny Martin, Bernie Adams, Billy Adkins, blind, Brandon Kirk, Buddy Emmons, Clayton McMichen, Doug Owsley, Durham, Ed Haley, fiddlers, fiddling, Green McCoy, Haley-McCoy grave, Harts, history, Imogene Haley, Indiana, Jeffersonville, John Hartford, Johnny Hager, Lawrence Haley, Mark O'Connor, Matt Combs, Melvin Kirk, Michael Cleveland, Milt Haley, Mona Haley, music, Nashville, North Carolina, Smithsonian, Snake Chapman, Tennessee, Texas Shorty, Ugee Postalwait, Webster Springs, West Virginia, Wilson Douglas, writing
When Ed first went out into the neighborhood with his dad’s fiddle and armed with his melodies (as interpreted by his mother) I think he probably caused not a small sensation amongst family and neighbors and his ear being as great as it was I think he picked up an incredible amount of other music really fast. I think he played with a lot of ornaments when he was a teenager and up into maybe even his thirties. Snake Chapman and Ugee Postalwait have alluded to this. Snake said the dining room recordings just didn’t sound as old-timey as he remembered Ed playing and Ugee said she remembered him and her dad talking about the little melodies between the notes. Of course Ed had to have been through a lot of subtle changes in style since that time. I think in later years he stripped a lot of the ornaments out of his fiddling in order to appeal to the Arthur Smith-Clayton McMitchen crowd who loved the radio style that was so much in vogue at that time. This might have helped make a little more money on the street. People have always liked to hear someone play and sound just like what they hear on the radio or a record. But I think if someone had asked Ed if he had done that consciously that he would have denied it and if he was in a bad mood they might have even had a fight on their hands.
I keep having this idea of Ed imitating other instruments on the fiddle because I’ve tried it myself and wouldn’t it be something that some of these great parts was really an imitation of John Hager’s banjo playing. I’d love to know where that passage is or whether it even exists.
It’s obvious that when Ed had good firm second that wouldn’t slow down for anything, he really leaned back on the beat and got in that little pocket where so many great musicians like to be. Ella and Mona really held up a good solid beat, but I’ll bet Ed was hard on them — a real taskmaster. It’s all in that rhythm section. Wilson Douglas told me one time that Ed always told him to play it real lazy. Texas Shorty, Benny Martin, and Buddy Emmons refer to it as holding on to the note as long as you can before you start the next one. This is an important part of Ed’s feel and sound and it really comes through on the dining room recordings. I get it by playing as slow as I can against a beat I hope is not gonna move, and then I swing the notes with a dotted note feel — a real lilt if I can get it — and just drag on the beat as hard as I can ’cause I know it’s not gonna slow down. I’d love to know just when Ed figured that out or if it was always there. I always think of Ed in his younger years playing on top of the beat or even ahead of it like I did when I was young and full of piss and vinegar. Actually when you’re playing alone you do hafta pretty well stay on top of the beat to hold the time or at least set it, cause you are the beat but you have to keep from rushing which we will tend do when we get to hard passages in order to get them over with. We’ll not do that no more. Mark O’Connor told me one time that while he is playing a tune he’ll play on top of and behind the beat on purpose. He described playing behind it as letting the beat drag you along…almost like water skiing. Oh, to have known what Ed and John Hager or Bernie Adams sounded like together.
I think Ed worked on his fiddling probably daily most of his life so it is fair to say that it was changing all the time. This would explain the varying descriptions of his playing that have come down. I’m sure they’re probably all accurate. Lawrence, Ugee, and Mona always said Ed played with great smooth long bow strokes and Snake Chapman always was adamant about him playing with short single strokes and Slim Clere said the same thing — that he bowed out everything — no bow slurs. Of course, in the dining room sessions you can hear both ways. It’s amazing how well Ed did without the feedback of working with a tape recorder. What an incredible ear he had. As far as I know, the only time he probably heard himself played back was the recordings we have. I hope there are others out there but I’ve come to doubt it.
Brandon and I have always had a gut feeling that if we’d dug down into the hillside a little further at Milt and Green’s grave we might have found something. We only went down five feet and then we were defeated by the rain. What if we had gone down the requisite six feet? What if, like the probe, Owsley had misjudged the bottom of the grave shaft due to the mud and water? What if it hadn’t rained and muddied up the work area? If Melvin Kirk and Ben Walker went so far as to bury the men in a deep grave, why not assume they would have gone for the standard six feet grave traditionally dug? In the following weeks, old timers around Harts kept telling Brandon and Billy, “If they didn’t dig at least six feet, it’s no wonder they didn’t find anything.” We didn’t want to question the professionalism of experts like the Smithsonian forensic team or seem like we wanted to find Milt and Green so badly that we couldn’t accept the concept that they were gone…but what if? The explanation that Doug Owsley gave us about the coal seam and underground stream made a lot of sense. Needless to say we were really disappointed. I had started to rationalize that not finding anything might indicate that they were buried in the nude and just thrown in the hole with no box or winding sheet or anything.
I was in Durham, North Carolina, the other day and I saw a fiddler on the street and I automatically found myself thinking of Ed. I didn’t have to fill in or rearrange much in my imagination to see him there playing on the street — even though this man was standing up, and played nothing like him. Of course when Ed was younger he probably stood up to play all the time like in the Webster Springs picture…dapper and wearing his derby. I always seem to picture Ed sitting down. Another great thrill for me is a young blind fiddler from Jeffersonville, Indiana, named Michael Cleveland who when he plays I can see Ed at nineteen. He stands up so straight he almost looks like he’s gonna fall over backward the way Lawrence said his dad did. When he plays I can’t take my eyes off of him thinking of Ed. Now my friend Matt Combs, who has done a lot of the transcriptions for this book, sits with me and plays Ed’s notes off of the paper, and I play off the top of my head, so in that sense it’s like playing with him.
I guess it’s time to just leave this alone and get back to my study of the fiddle. Maybe get geared up for “Volume Two.” I spend long hours here at the dining room table with my tape recorder and I can hear Lawrence and feel Ed as I try and play my way back into the past. I find that the study of Ed’s music leads me to the study of all music and the way it’s played.
19 Tuesday Aug 2014
Posted Ed Haley, Harts, Holden, Musicin
Arkansas, Arkansas Traveler, Ashland, banjo, Brandon Kirk, Ed Haley, Ella Haley, fiddle, fiddler, fiddling, Grayson, Harts, history, Holden, Jim Tackett, John Hartford, John Tackett, Kentucky, Lincoln County, Logan County, Logan Court House, music, Ohio, Portsmouth, Red River, Reece Tackett, Trace Fork, West Fork, writing
The next day, Brandon and I visited Reece Tackett, a banjo-picker who lived in a nice yellow house just up West Fork. Reece was born in 1909 and raised around Grayson in eastern Kentucky. His grandfather, Jim Tackett, was a fiddler from the Red River area of Arkansas who played for square dances in large farmhouses. He taught Reece’s father, John Tackett, how to play the fiddle. Reece said his father played “the old way — not flashy.” He used a homemade fiddle and “had to go to pine trees to get rosin.” He moved to a farm about nine miles from Grayson, where he made fiddles and played close to home, never as far away as Portsmouth, Ohio.
Reece said he moved to Holden in Logan County when he was sixteen to work with his uncle and brother in the coalmines. He used to watch Ed Haley and his wife play “beautiful” tunes like “Arkansas Traveler” on weekends at the Logan Courthouse. He said Ed wasn’t a big man and had fingers “about like a lead pencil.” His wife played the mandolin.
“She was pretty good on her singing,” Reece said. “She was dressed like the real old ladies. She had the long dress on and the apron.”
Ella kept a cup fastened to herself somehow.
“I’ve tossed many a nickel and dime in their cup,” Reece said.
Sometimes, people would pretend to put money in their cup and then steal from it.
Ed was usually paid about ten or fifteen cents per tune. There were no dollars and most of the coal miners were paid in company script.
Reece said he moved to Harts in 1946 and had no idea that Ed was from Trace Fork or even lived in Ashland.
30 Wednesday Jul 2014
Posted Big Harts Creek, Ed Haley, Musicin
26 Saturday Jul 2014
Posted Ed Haley, John Hartford, Lincoln County Feud, Musicin
Ashland, banjo, Bobby Taylor, Brandon Kirk, Charleston, Clyde Haley, Cultural Center, Deborah Basham, Ed Haley, Ella Haley, Forked Deer, Green McCoy, Grey Eagle, history, Jack Haley, John Hartford, Kentucky, Lawrence Haley, life, mandolin, Michigan, Milt Haley, Mona Haley, music, Pat Haley, Patsy Haley, Ralph Haley, Ralph Mullins, Rounder Records, San Quentin, Scott Haley, Smithsonian Institution, Steve Haley, West Virginia, writing
Around that time, Brandon and I received confirmation from Doug Owsley at the Smithsonian that he was interested in exhuming the Haley-McCoy grave. Doug gave us instructions on what we needed to do before his office could actually become involved — most importantly, to get permission from the state authorities, as well as from Milt’s and Green’s descendants. We felt pretty good about our chances of getting support from the family but weren’t sure what to expect from “officials.” For some guidance in that department, we called Bobby Taylor and Deborah Basham at the Cultural Center in Charleston, who told us all about exhumation law and codes in West Virginia. They felt, considering the interest of the Smithsonian, that we would have no trouble on the bureaucratic end of things.
Meanwhile, Rounder Records was in the final stages of releasing a two-CD set of Ed’s recordings called Forked Deer. The sound quality was incredible on the re-masters although to the uninitiated ear some of the music still sounded like it was coming from behind a waterfall in a cellophane factory. In addition to Forked Deer, Rounder was slated to release two more CDs of Ed’s music under the title of Grey Eagle in the near future.
I was very excited about all of these tunes getting out because I had fantasies of some “young Turk” fiddler getting a hold of them and really doing some damage.
In July, I called Pat Haley to tell her about the CDs, but we ended up talking more about her memories of Ed.
“I know when we lived in 1040 Greenup — when I first came over here — Pop would play very little. Only if he was drinking and maybe Mona would get him to play. I never knew of Pop ever playing sober. I didn’t hear Pop play too much but then his drinking days were just about over. But Mom would play. They had a mandolin and might have been a banjo and Mom would play a little bit. I didn’t know their brother, Ralph. He passed away, I believe, in ’46 or ’47 and I didn’t come into the family until ’48 — when I met Larry — but we married in ’49.”
Pat and I talked more about Ed’s 1951 death.
“Larry and I lived with Mom and Pop on 2144 Greenup Avenue and little Ralph lived with us,” she said. “Clyde had just come home from San Quentin, and a couple of months before Pop died Patsy was due to have Scott and so she moved into the house with us. Her and Jack had the front living room as their bedroom so that Patsy could be close to the hospital. Scott was born January 4th. My Stephen was born January 27th. We were all in the same house when Pop died. But about three days before Pop died, Clyde decided to rob his mother and came in in the middle of the night and stole her sweeper and radio while we were sleeping and he was picked up by the police and he was in jail when his daddy died. He didn’t get to come to his daddy’s funeral. His mother’s either, actually. He was in a Michigan prison when his momma died.”
20 Sunday Jul 2014
Posted Calhoun County, Ed Haley, John Hartford, Musicin
Alabama, banjo, Booger Hole, Brandon Kirk, Calhoun County, Dixie, Ed Haley, Elizabeth Hicks, fiddle, fiddlers, fiddling, Gid Tanner, Hinkey Dinkey Dee, Jasper McCune, Jim McCune, John Hartford, John McCune, Laury Hicks, Minnie Hicks, Mount Airy, music, North Carolina, Perry Meadows, Ralph Haley, Rogersville, Skillet Lickers, Tom McCune, Ugee Postalwait, Washington Hicks, West Fork Gals, West Virginia, writing
As Ugee spoke about her life, I pulled out the Laury Hicks fiddle and began to play. For Ugee, hearing it painted pictures and conjured up images from long ago. Her eyes teared up, full of emotion and melancholy.
“I never thought I’d hear Dad’s fiddle played again,” she said, after I played one tune.
For the next half-hour, I played for her, intermittently asking things like, “Did you ever hear Ed play ‘The Star Spangled Banner’?”
“I certainly have.”
What about “Dixie”?
“Oh my god, yes. Him and Dad both played ‘Dixie’.”
Did they play “West Fork Gals”?
“Oh, yeah. I don’t think they was any fiddling pieces back then they didn’t know.”
Before putting the fiddle back in the case, I asked what Ed did when he needed repairs on his fiddles.
“They didn’t work on their fiddles very much,” Ugee said. “They kept their fiddles in good shape. I’ve seen Dad string the bow hair off a horse’s tail. Seen him do that a many a time. He’d string up the bows for Ed, too. Dad could do all of that.”
Did Ed trade fiddles a lot?
“Oh, yeah. Anybody that came along. He’s been there with three or four. He used to come and try to trade some of them off to Dad. Sometimes Dad’d trade with him, sometimes he didn’t. I’ve seen my dad have as high as seven fiddles.”
I showed Ed’s fiddle to Ugee and she said, “Ed Haley got that fiddle from Dad. Ed traded him a real dark-looking fiddle. Ed got my guitar, too. He wanted it for Ralph.”
Brandon asked Ugee about her father’s background, a very important thing considering his strong presence in Ed’s life. She said he was born in 1880 to Washington and Elizabeth (McCune) Hicks in Calhoun County.
“Well, he come very near to getting killed when he was young,” she said. “Perry Meadows stabbed him seven times with a knife right around the heart in a fight. They didn’t think he’d live at all. He told Perry if he lived, ‘I’ll get you.’ He liked to beat Perry to death after he got older. Old Mrs. Meadows was gonna indict Dad over it it but Dad rode a pony horse and went with Ab Moss’ mother to Mount Airy, North Carolina. Back then, they wasn’t no roads — just trails. Took his big dog with him named Ring. He come very near to beating Perry to death, though, I guess. They was friends afterwards. Perry lived down the road just about half a mile below us. Dad never cared that much about Perry but he treated him right.”
Ugee spoke little about Laury’s bachelor days but implied that his musical skill and talent at square dancing made him popular with the ladies.
“They wouldn’t have a square dance in the country without having Laury Hicks,” she bragged.
She felt Laury inherited his musical talent from his mother’s side of the family, the McCunes. Laury’s uncle Jim McCune, who lived at the infamous “Booger Hole,” had musical children: John was a good fiddler on two or three tunes, while Jasper was the best banjoist in the area. Another son Tom “could play the banjo, but he was the best whistler I ever heard in my life. Dad give him a dollar a day to come up and whistle for him when he was bad sick.”
“All them McCunes could play music and they could dance, too,” Ugee said, before adding that they were mostly known as singers.
In 1904, Laury married Minnie Shaver. Because he was so close to his mother (he was her “favorite”), he remained living at home with his new bride. Years later, he played his fiddle and sang for his mother at her deathbed. Ugee sang all she could remember of the song:
There was an old man, he had a wooden leg.
He had no tobaccer but tobaccer he’d beg.”
“That was Grandpap Hicks’ favorite and the night that Granny died in 1923 I was putting her to bed and he was just see-sawing on the fiddle. She said ‘Laury, play your dad’s tune,’ and he said, ‘Oh Mam, I have to change the key.’ She said, ‘Don’t make no difference. Play Wash’s piece.’ I never will forget: I went to the kitchen and he was playing that and he hollered, ‘Hey, Ugee! Come here quick!’ And I come back in and seen they was something wrong with Granny. And I run and aimed to work with her…she was gone.”
Ugee couldn’t remember the title of her grandfather’s favorite tune, nor any more words to it, but Brandon later found those lyrics in a song recorded by Gid Tanner and His Skillet Lickers called “Hinkey Dinkey Dee”.
17 Thursday Jul 2014
Posted Big Harts Creek, Culture of Honor, Ed Haley, Lincoln County Feudin
Al Brumfield, banjo, Billy Adkins, blind, Bob Bryant, Brandon Kirk, Burl Farley, Charley Brumfield, Ed Haley, Fed Adkins, fiddlers, French Bryant, Green McCoy, Harve "Short Harve" Dingess, history, Hollene Brumfield, Hugh Dingess, John Hartford, Kentucky, Lincoln County Feud, Martin County, measles, Milt Haley, music, Nashville, Piney, Smokehouse Fork, Tom Holzen, West Fork, Wolf Creek, writing
Brandon and I also called Bob Bryant, a son of the infamous French Bryant, who lived with his son at the mouth of Piney Creek on West Fork. Billy Adkins had encouraged us to call Bob, saying that he would probably tell us what he knew of the Haley-McCoy murders. When we called Bob, his son said we were welcome to talk with his dad, although he warned us that his memory wasn’t very good.
Bob said he was born on Piney in 1911.
When I asked him about French Bryant he said he knew very little about him because his dad “was pretty old” when he was born. He said he did remember his father talking “some” about the Haley-McCoy affair.
“Milt and Green were pretty rough fellers who got in a lot of trouble all the time,” Bob said. “They were bad to drink. Milt Haley and Green McCoy was fiddlers — I think so. Maybe they was. Yeah, I almost know they was. One of them picked the banjo, I believe, but I don’t know for sure.”
Bob said Hugh Dingess, who was “kind of an outlaw,” organized a posse to fetch Milt and Green after they shot Al and Hollena Brumfield. They found them over around Wolf Creek in Martin County, Kentucky.
“Them Dingesses up there killed them,” Bob said. “It didn’t take much to get them to shoot you back then. People’d shoot you just to be a doing something.”
I asked Bob if he ever heard anything about who took part in what he kept calling “the shooting” and he said, “Hugh Dingess and four or five more.”
He paused, then said, “A few of them I wouldn’t want to tell you.”
We were just waiting for him to say his father’s name when he said, “Short Harve Dingess was pretty rough. Seems like he was in that bunch some way.”
Some of the others were: Al Brumfield, Charley Brumfield, Fed Adkins, and Burl Farley.
Bob never identified his father as a member of the mob but mentioned that his father was a friend to the Dingesses on Smokekouse.
He said he remembered seeing Ed play at the schoolhouse above the mouth of Piney when he was nineteen years old.
“He was a real fiddler,” Bob said.
In subsequent weeks, Brandon and I went through most of our information — processing it, sorting it, discussing it. We thought more about the story of Milt causing Ed’s blindness by dipping him in ice water and wondered how anyone would have ever equated those as cause-effect events. I got on the phone with Dr. Tom Holzen, a doctor-friend of mine in Nashville, who said Milt’s dipping of Ed in ice water, while a little crude, was actually the right kind of thing to do in that it would have lowered his fever. Based on that, Milt seems to have been a caring father trying to save Ed’s life or ease his suffering. Was it the act of a desperate man who had already lost other children to disease?
09 Wednesday Jul 2014
Posted John Hartford, Musicin
07 Monday Jul 2014
Posted Ashland, Big Sandy Valley, Ed Haley, John Hartford, Musicin
28 Saturday Jun 2014
Posted Big Harts Creek, Culture of Honor, Ed Haley, Lincoln County Feud, Spottswood, Timberin
accordion, Al Brumfield, Andy Mullins, banjo, Bernie Adams, Billy Adkins, Birdie, Blackberry Blossom, Brandon Kirk, Charles Conley Jr., Chinese Breakdown, Clifford Belcher, Crawley Creek Mountain, Down Yonder, Ed Belcher, Ed Haley, fiddle, fiddler, guitar, Harts, Harts Creek, history, Hollene Brumfield, Joe Adams, John Hartford, Johnny Hager, Logan, Logan County, Milt Haley, music, piano, Pop Goes the Weasel, Raggedy Ann, Soldiers Joy, Spanish Fandango, timbering, Trace Fork, West Virginia, Wirt Adams, writing
Satisfied that we’d taken up enough of Andy’s day, we drove up Trace Fork to see Wirt Adams, an older brother to Joe Adams. Wirt was busy installing a waterbed but took a break to talk with us. “Well, come on in boys, but I’ve only got a few minutes,” he seemed to say. Inside, however, after I had pulled out my fiddle and he had grabbed a mandolin, he seemed ready to hang out with us all day.
I told Wirt that I was trying to find out about Haley’s life. He said old-timers in the neighborhood used to tell stories about Ed playing for dances on Saturday nights with Johnny Hager, a banjo-picker and fiddler. Ed eventually left Harts Creek and got married but came back to stay with his cousins every summer.
Wirt said he sometimes bumped into him in local taverns:
“It was in the forties,” he said. “About ’47, ’48, ’49, ’50 — along there somewhere. We called it Belcher’s beer garden. It was a roadhouse over on Crawley Hill. Well, I just come in there from the mines and Ed was there and he heard somebody say that I was there and he said, ‘Come on over here Wirt and play one.’ I think the fella that’d been playing with him had got drunk and passed out. Well I played one or two with him and then Charley Conley and them boys come in and Charley says, ‘C’mon over here Wirt and get in with us.’ Ed said, ‘Don’t do that, you’re playing with me.’ I really wasn’t playing with him. I had my mine clothes on. I just come in there and picked up Bernie Adams’ old guitar. If you was playing they’d sit you a beer up there — no money in it. Mostly for fun, we thought. We’d gang up on Saturday night somewhere and play a little. Sometimes they’d dance.”
Wirt felt that Ed was “a good fiddler, one of the best in that time.”
I asked him about Ed’s bowing and he said, “It didn’t look like he moved it that far over the whole thing [meaning very little bow usage] but he played tunes where he did use the long stroke. But most of it was just a lot of movement but not no distance. Just hacking, I call it. Him and Johnny Hager were the only two fellas I know who done that.”
Brandon wondered about Ed’s tunes.
“Well, he played that ‘Blackberry Blossom’ — that was one of his favorites — and then he played ‘The Old Red Rooster’ and he played ‘Raggedy Ann’ and ‘Soldiers Joy’. He had one he called ‘somethin’ in the shucks’. I forget the name of it. Anyhow, it was one of the old tunes. And ‘Pop Goes the Weasel’, I’ve heard him play that.”
I asked if Ed played “Birdie” and he said, “Yeah. Now, that’s one of Charley’s favorites. ‘Chinese Breakdown’, that was one of Ed’s. ‘Down Yonder’.”
Wirt told us more about Johnny Hager and Ed Belcher.
“Johnny Hager was a banjo player but he could play the fiddle, too. He played the old ‘overhand’ [on the banjo]. He was a good second for somebody. Now Ed Belcher was a different thing altogether. He played all kinds of stuff. He played classical, he could play hillbilly. He played a piano, he played accordion, he played a banjo, he played a guitar. He was a good violin player. He tuned pianos for a living. Well, I’d call him a professional musician. They had talent shows in Logan. He’d sponsor that. He’d be like the MC and these kids would go in and play. He was a head musician. He was good. He could do ‘Spanish Fandango’ on the guitar and make it sound good. He could play all kinds of tunes. I never could play with him but then he could take the piano and make it talk, too. He was just an all-around musician.”
Brandon asked Wirt if he knew the story about how Ed came to be blind.
“Milt Haley was Ed’s dad,” Wirt said matter-of-factly. “They said his dad was kind of a mean fella and he took Ed out when he was a little kid — held him by the heels — and ducked him in the creek. He had some kind of a fever in wintertime. I’ve heard that, now. Ed never would talk about it. I never heard him mention his dad.”
Wirt had only heard “snippets” about Milt’s death.
“It was pretty wild times,” he said. “I understand the whole thing was over timberworks. These people, they’d have a splash dam on this creek and they’d get their logs and haul them in this bottom at the mouth of Trace — this was one of them. They had a splash dam and when the water got up they’d knock that dam out and that’d carry the logs down to Hart and they had a boom and them Brumfields owned the boom. They charged so much a log. Some way over that, there was some confusion. But I’ve seen Aunt Hollene. She was supposed to been riding behind old man Al Brumfield, her husband, and they shot at him and hit her.”
After Milt was caught, he made a last request.
“They said they asked him if he wanted anything and he wanted them to bring him a fiddle,” Wirt said. “He wanted to play a tune. Now this is hearsay but I’ve heard it several times. They said he played the fiddle and they hung him.”
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