The challenge word on Monday Artday this week is “grandpa“.
Louis Marshall Jones was born on October 20, 1913 in Niagara, Kentucky. He spent his teenage years in Akron, Ohio where he began singing country music tunes on a local radio show. By 1935 his pursuit of a musical career took him to WBZ radio in Boston, where he met musician/songwriter Bradley Kincaid who gave him the nickname “Grandpa” due to his off-stage grumpiness at early-morning radio shows. Jones liked the name and decided to create a stage persona based around it.
Performing as “Grandpa Jones,” he played the banjo, yodeled, and sang mostly old-time ballads. He played a style of banjo called frailing, which gave it the rough backwoods flavor of his performances. He moved to Nashville and became part of the Grand Ole Opry and a regular cast member on the popular TV show, Hee Haw.
A resident of rural Ridgetop, Tennessee outside of Nashville, “Grandpa” Jones was a neighbor and friend of fellow musician David “Stringbean” Akeman. During 1946, “Grandpa” began working with Akeman, a fellow old-time banjo player and comedian. Jones and Akeman continued to work together on the Grand Ole Opry and later on Hee Haw, eventually becoming two of the show’s most popular performers. On a Saturday night in November 1973, Akeman and his wife, Estelle, were shot dead by robbers upon returning to their home. The Akemans’ bodies were discovered the following morning by “Grandpa”.
In 1997, “Grandpa” was still going strong when the Opry management helped him celebrate his fiftieth anniversary on the show. Jones had a severe stroke moments after his second Opry show performance on January 3, 1998, and he died February 19.