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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: TOTW 3-24-2023 Lost Indian from Ed Haley

Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link:

carlb - Posted - 03/23/2023:  18:31:49

“Lost Indian” from Ed Haley for BHO TOTW


Here a banjo setting based on Ed Haley's fiddling and the story of how I arrived at this choice for my BHO TOTW.


     For me, life is a path with unplanned occurrences. These often cross paths with events and activities, past and present. Such is the case of this week's Tune of the Week, “Lost Indian” from the playing of Ed Haley (“Parkersburg Landing” Rounder 1010, 1976).

     I couldn't really find anything directly about his source; however, how I picked this one has a bit of a story. Some of you may know that I also play clarinet and do international folk dancing. In my Colorado years (1964-1972), I found my favorite form of classical music was to play woodwind quintets for fun. A few of us bought the music we used. Mine has sat in a pile (moved three times), unused, for the last 50 years. A woman, I met through folk dancing, and who plays flute, is playing quintets through a program at the Settlement Music School. I recently lent her my quintet music.

     As an aside, I lately have been obsessed with two songs that I do with banjo, “Before the Road” (Sue Massek) and “Across the Great Divide” (Kate Wolf). The latter brought back very strong memories of my many, many times back packing and rock climbing in the mountains of Colorado with my former girl friend. There are a particular couple of lines in the song:

“But I've been siftin' through the layers

Of dusty books and faded papers”

     Well, my transcription and tab for “Lost Indian” was one such item that turned up in the pile of quintet music. A pdf of my transcription and tab (in old Banjo NewsLetter form) is below.

     So all these events, past and present, have led to this TOTW.


Here's Ed Haley's fiddling


Here's how I play it now, to the best of my present, old age ability, along with Ed Haley's fiddling, at 85% of the original tempo. My banjo settings are meant to fit with the fiddle playing; some single times through are better than others. The sound file, along with Haley's fiddling, is below. The first part is the most difficult in that the right hand movements are most important. I almost can’t imagine that I could play this at full speed now and that I did learn it a full speed about 45 years ago, except that I recently came across a WXPN interview where I couldn't believe how fast I played in about 1979, but that’s for another time.


The closest to the Haley version that I could find are:

Lewis Propps

Max Collins (transcription: “The Fiddle Book", Marion Thede, 1967, p. 31)


Previous BHO discussion of Lost Indian:


Edited by - carlb on 03/23/2023 18:36:31

ndlxs - Posted - 03/24/2023:  06:36:04

It might sound cool on a Pete Seeger long neck banjo or a banjo tuned down 3 frets and put it what would otherwise be open C tuning; gCGCE; then you get that nice unison on the top string. 


Don Borchelt - Posted - 03/24/2023:  08:11:51


Originally posted by carlb

“Lost Indian” from Ed Haley for BHO TOTW


Here a banjo setting based on Ed Haley's fiddling and the story of how I arrived at this choice for my BHO TOTW...


Bob, I really like your banjo interpretation of this great Ed Haley tune.  I learned it awhile ago from the old 1976 Rounder LP, Parkersburg Landing, along with two other tunes, Parkersburg Landing and Dunbar, both great tunes in the key of C.  I remember that the hardest thing about his lost indian was not slipping into Black Mountain Rag on the A part, but I still don't agree with those who think it is the same tune.   As you point out, Haley plays this on the fiddle in Calico tuning (AEac#), which is a variant of the more common open tuning generally called Cross Tuning (AEae).  When he hits the opening note, he comes down hard on the bottom two open strings, getting both the low A and the low E, before playing the rest of the melody on the high phrases.  You hear this a lot in old time fiddling, and to my ear, it is reminiscent of the way a lot of the old ragtime blues guitarists like John Hurt would pluck the base notes on the guitar with the thumb, and then follow up with a treble melody picked in a pattern with the fingers.  That whole basic idea goes back to ragtime piano the way the pioneers like Scott Joplin played it, with the left hand hitting the low base, followed by the right hand tickling the upper keys.  I remember well watching old Eubie Blake, the last of the ragtime piano giants, doing that with great flourish on the old Tonight Show, when he was in his nineties.  So back to Lost Indian, this is the one time I am tempted to get a banjo with another bass string, so I can hit that low A note, the tonic, and not just the low E, the fifth, or dominant, and I suspect you've had that thought, too.  But we have to be satisfied just hitting the dominant, 'cause that's all the five strings are gonna give us to work with.

The extent recordings of Ed Haley were made by his son Lawrence on a home recorder, and the original 14 tune Rounder LP had a lot of pops and hisses, reflecting the limited editing technology of the time.  Numerous subsequent attempts over the years to filter out the noise proved unsuccessful.  Last year, however, Martin Fisher, an audio engineer for the Center for Popular Music at Middle Tennessee State University, was able to tackle the problem with considerable success.  The result is a collection of 154 tunes, including a lot of old standards refreshed by Haley's unique style of fiddling.  You can check out and purchase the set here:

Stole from the Throat of a Bird, Ed and Ella Haley

I went looking around on my hard drive and found a practice tape I made of this tune about five years ago.  Bob, I don't think I was EVER able to play this at Haley's tempo!  Y'all can listen to it here:

Ed Haley's Lost Indian on Banjo

- Don B.

RG - Posted - 03/24/2023:  15:10:54

Carl, that was real nice! Such a great tune.

Don Borchelt - Posted - 03/24/2023:  15:34:03

When I said Bob, I meant Carl. Don't ask. sad

Edited by - Don Borchelt on 03/24/2023 15:34:33

JanetB - Posted - 03/25/2023:  14:54:34

An interesting topic, Carl, and admirable banjo work playing with the original recording.  I'm not surprised Don studied the tune already, with the enormity of his repertoire.  The depth of his analysis is always astute as well.

Studying with Adam for over three years, I got interested in Ed Haley and arranged Lost Indian as one of his many "extra credit homework assignments."  I'll include it here with tab, though the BHO discussion link was presented above.  My playing back then is slightly different than the tab, but not by much.  Sometimes I hit the two low notes, as discussed by Don, sometimes just one.

Here's a link I discovered with the voluminous work of Brandon Ray Kirk, as well as some by his research partner, the late, great John Hartford.  You can search for many topics on the site Brandon maintains with hundreds of journal entries made after his visits to explore Appalachian music, especially regarding Ed Haley:  Lost Indian journal entries.  If you want to learn more about Ed Haley, explore the entire site.  There are discussion of his childhood blindness, a photo of him as a toddler, the story of his first fiddle, details about his family life and background, and lots about his music.

Here's a quote by Lawrence Haley, one of Ed Haley's sons, from a portion of the above search describing how his father visualized the tune: “... ‘Lost Indian’,” he said. “It seemed like, the way he explained it, this old Indian would look at something and see a far off peak that he recognized and he’d be happy and hooping and hollering and trying to get over to it and then whenever he’d get over there he would find out it wasn’t the place he thought it was. And he’d sit down and kind of reminisce, I guess, and feel bad towards his self because he wasn’t where he thought he was at so he could get home. He’d stand up and look around again and maybe see another peak or familiar point as being close to his tribe and he’d go to it with a little bit of enthusiasm and glee because he thought he’s getting home and it’d turn out the same way. He wasn’t getting no where. He was still a ‘lost Indian’.”

Don Borchelt - Posted - 03/25/2023:  19:05:11


Originally posted by JanetB

An interesting topic, Carl, and admirable banjo work playing with the original recording.  I'm not surprised Don studied the tune already, with the enormity of his repertoire.  The depth of his analysis is always astute as well...

Thank you, janet, for the compliment.  Your rendition is wonderful.  When you play the B part for the first time, you play a lick that you don't have in the tab that is very cool.  The only other clawhammer player I ever heard do this is my old pal, Ed Britt.  I took the liberty to transcribed it, I hope you don't mind.  The particular move I'm talking about is in the 3rd measure.  First you hit the 4th string open with the index finger, and hammer on the 2nd fret.  Next you hit the 3rd string open with the index finger, then you fret it at the 2nd fret and hit it with the thumb, and immediately slide it up to the 4th fret, skipping the index finger strike that would normally occur at that spot.  After that the thumb comes down again right on time to hit the 3rd string at the 2nd fret.  Next the index hits the 2nd string open, the thumb hits the 3rd string at the 2nd fret again, and we are back to normal.  If any of that is wrong, please correct me.  That is really cool stuff!

Edited by - Don Borchelt on 03/25/2023 19:09:39

JanetB - Posted - 03/25/2023:  19:37:55

Thanks, Don.  I don't think I could do that maneuver with the slide from the second fret to the fourth fret and get back to the second fret that quick.  But I'm glad it sounds good!  

Don Borchelt - Posted - 03/25/2023:  20:09:01


Originally posted by JanetB

Thanks, Don.  I don't think I could do that maneuver with the slide from the second fret to the fourth fret and get back to the second fret that quick.  But I'm glad it sounds good!  

Okay, in order to tab it, I slowed your recording down to about 1/3 speed.  Here is that one measure, slowed down.

Lost Indian Measure

Now, I know it sounds awfully forward of me, but it sure sounds like I got it right.  I think it is pretty awesome picking, too.

Edited by - Don Borchelt on 03/25/2023 20:09:14

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