Much has been written over the years about the legendary Stoneman Family, and with good reason. Starting in the late 1920s, they did as much as any traditional music entertainers to popularize the old time mountain singing style that informed what became bluegrass.
Together with his wife, Hattie, Ernest Stoneman (known as Pop) traveled the United States with different aggregations of their 13 children, performing and recording what was then called hillbilly music. They started out in Carroll County, VA but moved to the DC-area during the Depression looking for work.
The family continued performing after Pop’s passing in 1968, having a sort of second career during the ’60s folk boom. His son, Scotty, became one of the most heralded and influential fiddlers of the time, but he died young in 1973 before he could complete what had begun as a stellar career.
At this time, only two of the original Stoneman family are still living, Roni who made her mark playing banjo on the Hee Haw television show, and Donna, who played mandolin and was a favorite for years on stage.
Tara Linhardt recently posted a brief interview she did with Donna in February of 2013, and it should be interesting viewing for anyone who follows the pre-bluegrass history of our music. She’s obviously kept the perky persona that was such a riveting feature of The Stonemans all those years ago.
A campaign is underway now to see The Stoneman Family inducted into the International Bluegrass Hall Of Fame this year. It’s a bit difficult to believe that they aren’t already there.