Abe Keibler, Asa Neal, Big Indian Hornpipe, Big Rock Candy Mountain, Birdie, Charley Keibler, Ed Haley, Ella Haley, fiddlers, fiddling, Greenup, Grey Eagle, Henry Keibler, history, Jim Keibler, John Hartford, John Lozier, Kentucky, Morris Allen John Keibler, music, Ohio, Portsmouth, Portsmouth Airs, Pretty Polly, Roger Cooper, Sam Keibler, Turkey in the Straw, writing
As Abe and I fiddled the afternoon away, Roger Cooper and John Lozier showed up. In ensuing conversation, John mentioned to Abe that he didn’t remember his father, Jim. Abe said it was because his dad had died young.
“My uncle raised me from seven year old and raised Morris Allen from three months old,” he said.
“Uncle John and Uncle Henry raised me,” he said.
I said to Abe, “How many fiddling Keiblers were there all told?”
“Well, there weren’t many — just that one generation,” he said. “John — that was the oldest — Charley — that was the next one — and my dad and Sam. Them was the four fiddlers.”
His mind was starting to pull out great memories.
“Grandpa wouldn’t allow them to bring a fiddle into the house to saw around on and learn and they got a hold of an old fiddle and took it out in the cornfield. And the three brothers, he kept seeing them going out and he told Grandma, ‘Them boys are into something. I’m gonna follow them and see what they’re into.’ So he goes out there and Uncle John — that was the best fiddler — he was a playing and my dad was a dancing and he said, ‘Well now, John, you can bring your fiddle into the house.’ He had learnt to play it then pretty good.”
I asked Abe where he first heard Ed play and he said, “Greenup, Kentucky. Up here at the county seat. He played around the courthouse there and people donated him money. He had a cup on the neck of his fiddle and they’d drop five-dollar bills in it. When that old mill was a running and whiskey was in, he’d come around there to that mill on payday and maybe take a thousand dollars away from there. I was about eighteen years old when I heard him. He was a good fiddler. He could play ‘Birdie’ and all that. Played it in C or G either one. He played and sung a lot of songs — ‘Big Rock Candy Mountain’. He could play anything.”
Abe said he usually saw Ed at the courthouse on Labor Day or the Fourth of July. Ed always wore a hat and was dressed in a suit. He placed the fiddle under his chin, pulled a long bow and ran his fingers all up and down the neck of the fiddle. Abe said he “could play anything” but he only remembered “Grey Eagle”, “Big Indian Hornpipe”, “Portsmouth Airs”, and “Turkey in the Straw”. His wife normally sang while he played the fiddle, although he sang “Pretty Polly”. Abe never got to talk much to him because the crowds kept him so busy playing the fiddle.
I asked Abe if he ever played with Asa Neal and he said, “No, I never did play none with Asa but he was a pretty good fiddler. I remember when we first moved to Portsmouth in ’23, he couldn’t play nothing on the old Blues, but he got to be a pretty good fiddler. He used slip notes.”