Eddie Ashlaw had a reputation in the northwestern Adirondacks circa early-mid twentieth century as a fine singer of “the old songs,” though at that considerably more protective of his repertoire than his brother, Theodore (see Bethke, Adirondack Voices: Woodsmen and Woods Lore).
Eddie was born in the northern section of the Adirondack Park, between Nicholville and St Regis Falls, in 1901. His grandparents were French Canadian; his father was a lumberjack for the St. Regis Paper Company (see Theodore Ashlaw biography for more family background.) Eddie worked for forty years in the lumberwoods himself, first as a cutter, later driving river and peeling bark, and finally as a successful independent jobber. He died at age 88, in 1989.
Intensely social by nature, singing for Eddie was not a solitary activity but something that was done by request when out for a good time with friends. Although he learned the majority of his songs--and made up a few of his own--during his forty year career as a logger and jobber in the woods, his singing had moved from the bunkhouse to the barroom (and other gathering spots) by the 1940s and 1950s. He took his songs, and the singing of them, very seriously, and would only sing when he felt the circumstances were right.
What we hear below are two songs from the only known recordings of Eddie Ashlaw’s singing that Robert Bethke taped in the 1970s. It is important to note that Eddie was no longer regularly singing his songs at this point; his feeling was that too often the opportunities to do so were all behind him. It took considerable coaxing to get him to sing at all, and he had some doubts that he could “get any of them together.” Eddie’s singing style for the pieces thus may or may not reflect his typical vocal performance of years earlier.