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Roni Stoneman, ‘Hee Haw’ Star & Stoneman Family Musician, Dies at 85

Mr. Nimbus | 02/22/2024

Veronica Loretta “Roni” Stoneman, banjo player, comedian and cast member on the long-running television show Hee Haw, died Thursday (Feb. 22) at age 85.

Stoneman, known as “The First Lady of Banjo,” was born May 5, 1938, as the second-youngest of 23 children born to Hattie Stoneman and pioneering bluegrass musician Ernest V. “Pop” Stoneman, known for his 1925 recording of “The Sinking of the Titanic.” According to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Ernest’s recordings later led executive Ralph Peer to set studio dates in Bristol, Tennessee to record Stoneman and other artists in 1927 — which would include the landmark first recording sessions for The Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers.

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Roni Stoneman was also part of the family band The Stoneman Family, which evolved from the band The Bluegrass Champs, which included family members Scott Stoneman and Donna Stoneman. The group won a competition as part of Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts in 1956. By the 1960s, Roni had joined the group on banjo. According to the Country Music Hall of Fame, the group recorded two projects for Starday Records in 1962 and 1963, and then recorded for MGM and World-Pacific. She also performed as part of the group on their syndicated 1960s television show Those Stonemans.

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In the 1960s, The Stoneman Family earned Billboard Hot Country Singles chart hits including “Tupelo County Jail” and “The Five Little Johnson Girls.”

In 1967, the first year the Country Music Association (CMA) Awards were held, the Stoneman Family was named vocal group of the year. Roni departed the group in 1971, and soon joined the cast of Hee Haw, working on the country variety progtam for two decades as a comedian and banjo player, and known for portraying Ida-Lee Nagger, the “Ironing Board Lady.” There, she worked alongside artists and comedians including Minnie Pearl, Buck Owens and Roy Clark. In 2007, Stoneman recounted her life story in the book Pressing On.

Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum CEO Kyle Young called Stoneman “a great talent and a strong woman,” commending her legacy in the genre. “For Roni Stoneman, known as ‘The First Lady of the Banjo,’ country music was a birthright and her life’s work,” he wrote. “The second youngest of 23 children born to Hattie and Ernest ‘Pop’ Stoneman, Roni was an integral part of a bedrock country music family, who were longtime fixtures in the country music scene of Washington, DC. For 18 years on ‘Hee Haw,’ she stole scenes as both a skillful banjo player and as a comical, gap-toothed country character.”

This post was originally published on this site

Written by Mr. Nimbus




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