1885-1951, Hart’s Creek, Logan County
Blind from the age of three, fiddler Ed Haley influenced many great artists both before and after his death – including the great Clark Kessinger. Haley traveled widely throughout West Virginia and Kentucky. He performed his repertoire of old-time music including breakdowns, jigs, waltzes and show tunes at square dances and fiddle contests, and played in courthouse squares.
During the ’20s and ’30s, Haley also made records and sold them during his earlier years, and played on the radio in Cincinnati. His wife Martha Ella Trumbo, also blind, accompanied Haley on mandolin and played on many of his recordings. Martha’s son Ralph Payne recorded Ed and his mother’s playing on a home disc-cutting machine and many of those recordings were eventually released by Rounder Records.
One of those influenced by Haley’s playing was the late John Hartford. Hartford studied and sang about Haley’s life, performed his music, and recorded it on his albums. Among those songs is “Hell Up Coal Holler,” in which Hartford sings about Haley’s travels in WV and eastern KY, playing on trains and in smokehouses. He played one of Haley’s fiddle tunes, “Shove That Hog’s Foot Further in the Bed” as well as Haley’s arrangement of “Man of Constant Sorrow” on the “Down from the Mountain” concert. He also undertook a project to research a book on Ed Haley’s life.