West Virginia fiddler Ed Haley (1883-1951), photographed ca. 1930s. Though a professional musician, Haley never made a commercial recording due his suspicion that record companies would take unfair advantage of his blindness. Home recordings made late in his life were issued on Rounder Records’ 1976 LP Parkersburg Landing and 1997 CDs Forked Deer and Grey Eagle. Photograph from the Guthrie T. Meade Collection.
One-armed fiddler Marshall Claiborne of Hartsville, Tennessee, ca. 1926. Claiborne placed second in the 1926 old-time fiddlers’ contest at Nashville, utilizing an unusual technique of holding the bow between his knees and moving the fiddle against it with his left arm. Photo from the Guthrie T. Meade Collection.
From 1970 to 1974 Kevin Delaney, a Duke University graduate with a keen interest in folk music, traveled across Ireland and the United States recording scores of local fiddlers and old-time musicians, including many whose music may have otherwise gone undocumented.
These field tapes, now preserved in the SFC’s Kevin Delaney Collection, contain hundreds of tunes performed by traditional Irish musicians, primarily fiddlers from the counties of Clare, Donegal, Dublin, Galway, Kerry, Meath, Sligo, and Tipperary, as well as Irish fiddlers working in the US. The collection is an invaluable resource for students of Irish and American fiddling traditions.
Listen below to clips of Irish fiddler John Kelly, of Dublin, performing a tune recorded by Delaney as “The Humours of Castlefinn” on July 31, 1972:
and Paddy Glacken, also of Dublin, performing “The Apples in Winter” a few days later:
Both clips from field tape FT-272 in the Kevin Delaney Collection.
North Carolina fiddler Tommy Jarrell, February 1968. From the Archie Green Collection.
Congratulations to West Virginia Senator Robert C. Byrd, who today marks his 20,774th day in office, making him the longest-serving member of Congress in U.S. history. To fully appreciate how long Byrd has served, note that he has had time to both filibuster the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and to endorse (and, presumably, vote for) the first African-American to be elected President. He has come a long way.
Though hampered now by his age and health problems (he will be 92 years old on Friday), Byrd has been an avid country fiddler for most of his life, heavily influenced by the recordings of legendary West Virginia fiddler Clark Kessinger. In 1978, while Byrd was Senate Majority Leader, he recorded an album for County records titled U.S. Senator Robert Byrd: Mountain Fiddler (SFC # FC-13991).
Listen below to a clip from that album of Sen. Byrd, on fiddle and vocals, performing “Rye Whiskey” with Doyle Lawson on guitar, James Bailey on banjo, and Spider Gilliam on bass.