The Country Music Planet
Ernest V. (Pop) Stoneman
(Singer, Songwriter, Guitar, Autoharp, Harmonica,
Clawhammer Banjo, Jew’s Harp)
The Stoneman Family
An Early Photograph of The Stoneman Family
Top - R: Roni, Van
Standing, middle row, L - R: Scott, Hattie (Mom) Ernest V. (Pop), Grace, Dean,
Seated, L - R: John, Bill, Donna, Jim, Jack
Missing from this photograph: Patsy
- Given Name: Ernest Van Stoneman
- Date of Birth: May 25, 1893
- Place of Birth: Monarat (Iron Ridge), Carroll County, Virginia
- Married: Hattie Frost
- Children: Eddie L., I. Grace, John C., Pattie I. J. William (dec’d.),
A. Juanita (dec’d.), Gene A., Dean C. (dec’d.), C. Scott (dec’d.),
Donna L., O. James, Reta V. (dec’d.), Veronica L., Van H.
- Date of Death: June 14, 1968
Ernest Stoneman ranked among the prominent recording artists
of Country music’s first commercial decade. Born near what would later become
Galax, Virginia, Stoneman was left motherless at age three and was raised by his
father and three musically-inclined cousins who taught him the instrumental and
vocal traditions of Blue Ridge mountain culture. When he married Hattie Frost in
November 1918, he entered another musically-involved family.
Ernest worked at a variety of jobs, mostly carpentry, and
played music for his own enjoyment and that of his neighbors, but when he heard
a Henry Whitter record in 1924, he determined to better it and changed his life
as well. Stoneman went to New York and cut two songs for the Okeh label. Ralph
Peer directed him through several sessions for Okeh and Victor and freelanced on
other labels as well. In 1926, he added family musicians to his group for a full
string band sound.
In July and August 1927, Stoneman helped Peer conduct the
legendary Bristol sessions that led to the discovery of the Carter Family and
Jimmie Rodgers. He continued to be active in recording through 1929.
Falling on hard times during the depression, the Stonemans
and their nine surviving children moved to the Washington, D.C. area in 1932
after losing their home and most of their possessions. There they had four more
children and struggled through dire poverty, with Ernest taking whatever work he
could find and trying to revive his musical career.
In 1941, Ernest bought a lot in Carmody Hills, Maryland
where he built a shack for the family and eventually obtained a more or less
regular job at the Naval Gun Factory. In 1947, the Stoneman Family won a talent
contest at Constitution Hall that gave them six months’ exposure on local
television. In 1956, "Pop" won $10,000 on the NBC-TV quiz show The
Big Surprise and sang on the show as well. That same year, the Blue Grass
Champs, a group composed largely of his children, were winners on the CBS-TV
program Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts, and Mike Seeger recorded
"Pop" and Hattie for Folkways.
Ernest retired from labor and the Champs went full-time to
become the Stonemans. They did albums for Starday in 1962 and 1963 and in 1964,
went to Texas and California, cutting an album for World Pacific, playing at
Disneyland, on some network shows and at several Folk festivals.
In 1965, they went to Nashville, where they got a contract
with MGM Records and started a syndicated TV show. They received CMA’s
"Vocal Group of the Year" in 1967.
Country Music Planet
First Lady Of Banjo
Most remember RONI STONEMAN as THE
IRONING BOARD LADY (IDA LEE) from the long running TV show HEEHAW, but Miss
Stoneman is much more than that. True, she spent over 20 years on
HEEHAW, but she was a great entertainer long before HEEHAW. Some would say
that her roots are in American Music, but this writer says that American
Music roots are in her and the rest of THE STONEMAN FAMILY. After all, THE
STONEMAN FAMILY has been entertaining the "FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS"
for over 350 years. That was not a misprint, folks. I mean three hundred and
fifty years. Her dad, POP STONEMAN, had the first million selling record in
country music, THE SINKING OF THE TITANIC. He, also, had the first country
music radio show. Roni was a big part of THE STONEMAN FAMILY band long
before HEEHAW. She is appropriately called THE FIRST LADY OF THE BANJO by
all the insiders in the music business. She is in this writer's opinion one
of the greatest banjo pickers that ever lived. She is a fantastic
entertainer, and her singing is pure country with those clear mountain
sounds coming from somewhere deep within from a place most of us can't even
imagine. But most important of all RONI STONEMAN is one of the most honest
and nicest human beings that this writer has ever had a chance to meet.