Ed Haley

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It would have been a tragedy if the world had been left with no viable recordings of the extremely gifted and influential fiddling of Ed Haley, but that's almost what happened due to Haley's own wariness.…
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It would have been a tragedy if the world had been left with no viable recordings of the extremely gifted and influential fiddling of Ed Haley, but that's almost what happened due to Haley's own wariness. The fiddler harbored a healthy mistrust of record companies and was always worried that they would pull a fast one in their dealings with him because of his disability. The Appalachian fiddler, who was born James Edward Haley, lost his sight during a bout of measles when he was approximately three years old. Although he made his living as a professional musician and supported a growing family of six children even throughout the Depression, he refused to deal with any record companies. Luckily, Ralph Haley, one of the fiddler's sons, possessed home recordings of his father that he made over a period from 1946 through the following year. Upon Ralph's passing, his father's recorded legacy was bequeathed to his siblings. In 1975, almost a quarter century after Ed Haley passed away from a heart attack at his home in Ashland, KY, Rounder Records put out a 14-track LP, Parkersburg Landing, that documented his wickedly good fiddling. But this album wasn't enough to capture Haley's repertoire adequately. Rounder went on to put out a pair of double-CD sets, Forked Deer in 1997 followed by Grey Eagle a year later. Haley, who never attended school, did not have an easy childhood. An aunt helped raise him after the death of his musician father in 1889. When food was in short supply, wild onions made up his meal. A kindly neighbor of the budding musician constructed a cornstalk fiddle that Haley tinkered with before he could own a real one. The fiddler wed Martha Ella in 1914 and the newlyweds made their home in Ashland, KY. Like Haley, his wife was blind. She did, however, receive the benefit of a formal education. After graduating from the Louisville School for the Blind, she went on to teach piano and she later played the mandolin as her husband's accompanist.