Remembering Grandpa Jones
Date of Birth: October 20, 1913, Niagara, Kentucky, USA
Date of Death: February 19, 1998, Nashville, Tennessee, USA (Stroke)
Birth Name: Louis Marshall Jones
Height: 5' 6"
Grandpa Jones, was an American banjo player and "old time" country and gospel music singer. He is a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame. Born in the small farming community of Niagara in Henderson County, Kentucky, Jones spent his teenage years in Akron, Ohio, where he began singing country music tunes on a radio show on WJW. His father was a fiddle player, and his mother was a ballad singer. In 1931, Jones joined the Pine Ridge String Band, which provided the musical accompaniment for the very popular Lum and Abner show. By 1935 his pursuit of a musical career took him to WBZ (AM) radio in Boston, Massachusetts, where he met musician/songwriter Bradley Kincaid, who gave him the nickname "Grandpa" because of his off-stage grumpiness at early-morning radio shows. Jones liked the name and decided to create a stage persona based around it. Later in life, he lived in Mountain View, Arkansas.
Performing as Grandpa Jones, he played the guitar or banjo, yodeled, and sang mostly old-time ballads. By 1937, Jones had made his way to West Virginia, where Cousin Emmy taught Jones the art of the clawhammer style of banjo playing, which gave a rough backwoods flavor to his performances. In 1942, Jones joined WLW in Cincinnati, Ohio. It was there that he met fellow Kentuckian Merle Travis. In 1943, they made their recording debuts together for Syd Nathan's upstart King Records. Jones was making records under his own name for King by 1944 and had his first hit with "It's Raining Here This Morning".
His recording career was put on hold when he enlisted in the United States Army during World War II. Discharged in 1946, he recorded again for King. In March 1946, he moved to Nashville, Tennessee, and started performing on the Grand Ole Opry and married Ramona Riggins on October 14, 1946. As an accomplished performer herself, she would take part in his performances. Jones' vaudeville humor was a bridge to television. His more famous songs include "T For Texas", "Are You From Dixie", "Night Train To Memphis" and "Mountain Dew", and "Eight More Miles To Louisville".
In 1969, Jones became a charter cast member on the long-running television show Hee Haw, often responding to the show's skits with his trademark phrase "Outrageous". He also played banjo, by himself or with banjo player David "Stringbean" Akeman. A musical segment featured in the early years had Jones and "his lovely wife Ramona" singing while ringing bells held in their hands and feet. A favorite skit had off-camera cast members ask, "Hey Grandpa, what's for supper?" in which he would describe a delicious, country-style meal, often in a rhyming talking blues style. Sometimes he would describe something not so good; i.e. "Because you were bad, thawed out TV dinners!"
In early January 1998, Jones suffered two strokes after his second show performance at the Grand Ole Opry. He died at 7:00 p.m. Central Time on February 19, 1998 at the McKendree Village Home Health Center in Hermitage, Tennessee, at age 84. He was buried in the Luton Memorial Methodist Church cemetery in Goodlettsville, Tennessee.
Grandpa Jones Trivia
While not a known country hitmaker, he did place a few songs on Billboard magazine's country singles chart. His biggest hit was "T for Texas" (1962, a remake of the Jimmie Rodgers tune).
One of his most popular segments on Hee Haw (1969) was "Hey Grandpa, what's for supper?!" wherein he'd follow a speil with either a really great dinner ("Chicken and dumplin's smothered over buttery biscuts and Grandma's special blueberry pie a la mode." Cast: "Yum-yum!") or something really terrible (e.g., leftovers, of which the cast would follow with "Yuk!"). He was also a member of the Hee Haw Gospel Quartet, a favorite segment of viewers.
Legendary performer and favorite of many country music fans. He began performing as Grandpa Jones at age 26.
Elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1978.
He had a daughter, Marsha Marie (born December 8, 1939), with his first wife, Eulalia. He also had three children with his second wife, Ramona: son, Mark; daughter, Eloise; and daughter, Alisa.