The Pie Man: Baking and Playing
by Susan Marquez
Who doesn’t love a man who bakes pecan pies, fries the best fish, grows a garden, and puts up peaches from his orchard? Oh, and on top of that, he can play a mean fiddle and guitar! Some may call Edgar Uselton a Renaissance man. He just thinks of himself as a man who has plenty to do, and he enjoys doing every bit of it. At age 91, Edgar shows no signs of slowing down.
“He’s amazing,” says bluegrass artist Becky Buller (See Becky’s feature in the BGS “here”). Becky and her husband, Jeff Haley (also a bluegrass musician) know Edgar because they attend church together at Hurricane Grove Baptist Church in Manchester, Tennessee. “We live in Manchester, and Edgar lives in Hillsboro,” says Becky. “We are a 15-minute drive apart.”
Perhaps it is having friends like Becky and Jeff that keep Edgar young.
“Edgar played as a duo in the early 1950s with my husband’s late uncle, Floyd Haley,” says Becky. Recalling his days of playing in bands, Edgar says he always loved playing music, but he had a job that kept him busy during the week. “I made golf clubs for 42 years at the Wilson Golf plant in Tullahoma, Tennessee. I played music in the evenings when I could, and on the weekends.” Edgar says he was in a band that would play for get-togethers. “Some of those guys went on to play at the Grand Ole Opry. I played at Station Inn with Benny Williams, who has played fiddle for Bill Monroe as well as Flatt and Scruggs and many others.”
Like most musicians, Edgar has collected a few instruments over the years. One of his most prized instruments was a 1952 model D-28 Martin guitar that once belonged to Kitty Wells. “I met a woman who lived next door to Vince Gill and told her about the guitar. She called Vince, who was playing a show with Willie Nelson. Vince called me for several days, and when we finally spoke, he offered me $11,000 for the guitar. I only had $1000 in it, so I made $10,000 on the deal! He probably would have given me more for it, but I was happy with that offer.”
Edgar says his mother played the guitar and she showed him the chords. “I just picked it up from there. She used to sing Mother, the Queen of my Heart by Jimmie Rodgers when I was young, and that was the first song I learned to play. I learned to play a couple of more tunes, including Roy Acuff’s The Old Age Pension Check. I played them for my family, and it blew their minds. I just started singing and picking all the time after that.”
While he does not play much anymore, Edgar recently played an impromptu gig at his barbershop. “My barber had a couple of old fiddles that he took down and showed me. The strings were rusty, and the fiddles were way out of tune. I told him I would bring my fiddle up there and play for him. It took me about six months, but I got my neighbor who plays the guitar and another friend who plays the upright bass, and we played about eight to ten tunes right at closing time. Everyone really had a great time.”
Becky has encouraged Edgar to keep playing. “I’m going to have some gall stones taken out, and after that, I’m getting with Becky and Jeff to make a CD!”
“I put in a big garden each year, and I call it the Garden of Edgar. I grow huge tomato plants that fill the cages and grow to be six to eight feet tall. I took one of the tomatoes to the store last year and it weighed two and a half pounds! The secret is to use a lot of fertilizer and to plant grass around the plants to hold in the moisture.” He also has an orchard. “I have peaches that look like they came from the grocery store. No worms in them at all. It’s because I spray them well early on. I dehydrate some of the peaches and put others up in the freezer.”
Edgar would rather stay outdoors than be cooped up in his home all day. He enjoys fishing as well, especially when he can host a big fish fry with his catch. But it is his pecan pies that Becky says are the best.
IN THE KITCHEN WITH THE PIE MAN!
“I had to learn his secret,” says Becky. “We went to his home and he gave me and my sister-in-law a lesson on how to make the perfect pecan pie!” Becky says there is no one quite like Edgar Uselton. “He is so special. We are blessed to have him as a friend.”
Enjoy this BGS Video Chart song by Becky Buller.