Ed Palmer

Music on Beaver Island, Michigan, has always been essential to island life, but it also draws the interest of outsiders such as musicologist Alan Lomax, for its unique color, which draws from a history of Irish American fiddling, songs and ballads of the Great Lakes, and a Grand Ol Opry set list established in the 30s, 40s and 50s. At the heart of this unique living tradition is Ed Palmer, who’s been entertaining folks on Beaver Island for more than 50 years.

“Well, when I was a young fellow on Beaver Island here, I heard the old-timers play the music, and I always loved that music: the piano, the guitar, and the fiddle. And I learned how to play the piano, then the harmonica, then the guitar. And I started playing for dances, weddings, birthday parties, and in some of the pubs up here. I kept playing. I worked on the boats in Ludington down there for a while, and I went in the Army, went to Vietnam and come back, and continued on playing music, entertained all the Beaver Islanders. And as years went by, the old-timers are kind of passing away, so I’d play for their funerals and continue on playing with their kids as they’re growing up.”

Article credit: WMUK Cara Lieurance