Fans of banjo player and country music entertainer David “Stringbean” Akeman, as well as those with an interest in American music history, will have a unique opportunity on September 9 when the American Banjo Museum in Oklahoma City welcomes Taylor Hagood, author of Stringbean: The Life and Murder of a Country Music Legend, for a talk.
The book, published in May of this year by University of Illinois Press, serves as both a biography of Stringbean’s life, his tragic murder in 1973, and the courtroom drama that followed. Akeman was an extremely popular banjo player and comedian, starting in the 1930s, where he used his height and slender build as an identity. In the early days of country music, most acts included a comedian on the show, as well as musicians and singers. String came into this role unexpectedly, being pushed forward when another performer failed to show up for a gig. He excelled and rapidly made it part of his act.
After moving to Nashville in 1960 with his wife Estelle, he became a regular on the Grand Ole Opry, and was a cast member on Hee-Haw aired for several years on television. Both David and Estelle were beloved by the music community in Nashville, remembered for their graciousness and generosity, as well as their musical abilities, she as an old time fiddler, and he a clawhammer banjoist. Stringbean had previously been a member of Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys, from 1943-45, where he was prized for his skills as a baseball player as well as a banjo picker.
On November 10, 1973, Stringbean and Estelle returned home after an Opry show where they were shot and killed, with their bodies discovered the next morning by their close friend, Grandpa Jones. Cousins John A. Brown and Marvin Douglas Brown were tried and convicted of the crime, though they had protested their innocence through appeals courts.
Hagood, a writer, speaker, literary critic, musician, artist, and educator, is a professor at Florida Atlantic University. He has written a number of books, and many scholarly articles, with a deep interest in country music.
He will speak on September 9 at 1:00 p.m., and will sign books following his presentation. There is no admission fee other than Museum admission, and his talk is free to ABM members.
You can learn more about the American Banjo Museum online.