Big Branch, Brandon Kirk, Cacklin Hen, Calhoun County Blues, Dood Dalton, Ed Haley, fiddler, fiddling, Garfield's Blackberry Blossom, Harts Creek, history, John Hartford, Lincoln County, music, Tootsie Tomblin, West Virginia, Wild Horse, writing
In that same time frame, Brandon re-visited Tootsie Tomblin, a daughter of Ed Haley’s friend Dood Dalton. She presented him with a reel-to-reel recording of Dood playing the fiddle around 1971. He knew this was an amazing find, somewhat comparable to finding a recording of Laury Hicks, Ed’s fiddling friend in Calhoun County.
Tootsie warned Brandon that the recording wasn’t great because her father had been very old and somewhat crippled in his left hand.
“He was playing with three fingers on his left hand ’cause his fourth finger wouldn’t bend where he’d got it mashed in the mines,” she said.
Brandon sent me a copy of the Dalton recording and when I played it I found that Dood was just what Tootsie said — a man of advanced years whose fingers were tough, stiff and scarred from years of working in the mines — using what sounded like a bow with three hairs and no rosin and a fiddle that had been refinished with floor varnish and strung up with barbed wire and with an action so high you could probably put your shoe under the strings. Still, there he was playing “Wild Horse”, “Cacklin’ Hen”, “Calhoun County Blues”, and “Garfield’s Blackberry Blossom”…and doing it so slowly, as if he were trying to communicate to me through the years that he’d been one hell of a fiddler earlier in his life. His final number was an unaccompanied vocal rendition of an old gospel tune. I came away from the recording thinking that yes, by god, Dood Dalton had been a good fiddler in his day.