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Pressing On

The Roni Stoneman Story

Roni Stoneman

Publication Year: 2007

This book recounts the fascinating life of Roni Stoneman, the youngest_x000B_daughter of the pioneering country music family, and a girl who, in spite_x000B_of poverty and abusive husbands, eventually became The First Lady of_x000B_Banjo,? a fixture on the Nashville scene, and, as Hee Haws Ironing Board_x000B_Lady, a comedienne beloved by millions of Americans nationwide._x000B_Drawn from over seventy-five hours of recorded interviews, Pressing On reveals that Roni is also a master storyteller. In her own words and with characteristic spunk and candor, she describes her pooristic? (way beyond ˜poverty-stricken?) Appalachian childhood, and how she learned from her brother Scott to play the challenging and innovative three-finger banjo picking style developed by Earl Scruggs. She also warmly recounts Hee Haw-era adventures with Minnie Pearl, Roy Clark, and Buck Owens; her encounters as a musician with country greats including Loretta Lynn, Johnny Cash, June Carter, and Patsy Cline; as well as her personal struggles with shiftless and violent husbands, her relationships with her children, and her musical life after Hee Haw.

Published by: University of Illinois Press

Series: Music in American Life

front cover

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Title Page

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Copyright Page

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Table of Contents

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pp. ix-x


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pp. xi-xii

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pp. xiii-xv

This is what usually happens: There I’ll be, up on stage at some state fair or bluegrass festival or club in Nashville. I’ll be having a great old time, picking my banjo and telling stories about life in the mountains, really feeling the love that comes from the audience, and loving them back. I finish and go to sit behind the record table. ...

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1. Family

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pp. 1-12

I think it would be nice to begin with the story of how Daddy and Mommy met. None of us kids knew about that until one day in the sixties when we were on the road—the Stoneman family band going from place to place, as we did, to play show after show. ...

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2. A Classy Person: Aunt Jack

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pp. 13-14

Granny Frost had three children, my mother Hattie, her sister Irma Lee, who for some reason we called Aunt Jack, and Aunt Jack’s twin, Bolen. Aunt Jack was a classy lady. She was childless. And we were always impressed with her because she didn’t have kids. Instead she had lots of things. ...

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3. My Childhood

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pp. 15-24

My brothers and sisters: Eddie was born in 1920, Grace in 1921, John in 1923, Patsy in 1925, Billy in 1926, Nita in 1927 (Nita died when she was five), Jack in 1929, Gene and Dean in 1930, Scotty in 1932, Donna in 1934, Jimmy and Rita in 1937 (Rita died when she was a baby), me in 1938 (May 5), and finally Van in 1940. ...

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4. Music

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pp. 25-33

More than the invented games, more than the television, the main thing we had instead of toys was music. Like most of the people from around Galax, Daddy would make his own instruments. And here’s one of those times him being good at psychology came in. ...

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5. Learning the Banjo

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pp. 34-43

I described how Grandpa Frost helped Scott with the fiddle, but he also was the one that taught Momma to play the banjo in all those tunings. Like the other mountain banjo players, Grandpa used to make his banjos with the animals he would kill. ...

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6. Education

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pp. 44-46

I wasn’t the most “scholaristic” child in the world. I just didn’t take to school for a lot of reasons. First of all, and maybe most important, there was my eye. I couldn’t see the blackboard because my eye was crooked. And when I would read, sometimes the lines would blur into a big straight line and make me sick to my stomach. ...

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7. Sex Education

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pp. 47-50

My sex education wasn’t any better than my other education. I was about fourteen or fifteen years old when I “became a lady.” I remember getting really angry that day, and my back hurting, and I’m sitting in the school desk, wiggling around even worse than usual. ...

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8. First Love

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pp. 51-52

My first love, it was really just a crush, was Chuck Davis. He was from the Washington, D.C., area, but because he was running with a bad crowd, his mom and dad brought him into Maryland. Two sisters, him, and his mom and dad. It was a nice house, two or three bedrooms, even though it was right next door to us hillbillies. ...

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9. My Brothers and Sisters

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pp. 53-60

Now as I was getting on in my teenage years, growing up, so of course were my brothers and sisters. I wasn’t that close to my much older brothers, John, Billy, and Jack. Or to Eddie, the oldest—he seemed to be always bossing everybody—though later I was grateful to him because he would stick up for me. ...

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10. The Performing Stonemans

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pp. 61-64

I keep mentioning about the family all performing together, so I want to focus for a little on how that went and how we worked with each other. At first when we were young, we’d be going out with Daddy, playing around the Washington area (after I had learned the banjo well enough to avoid those whuppings!). ...

Illustrations follow page 64

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11. First Marriage

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pp. 65-77

Now to my marriage, my first marriage, and my little babies. When I met Gene Cox, I was sixteen and playing with the family band at a club called Armstrong’s. A guy named Aubrey used to come to hear us a lot, and one day I went over to his table and started talking to him. ...

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12. The Stoneman Family Band Comes Together

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pp. 78-80

During the time I was playing with the Johnny Hopkins band at Sam Bomstein’s Famous Bar and Grill, Scott had formed a new band. He called it the Blue Grass Champs because all the musicians had won contests. At first the band consisted of Scott, Donna, Jimmy, Porter Church on banjo, and Jimmy Case on guitar, ...

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13. Opry

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pp. 81-83

So we Stonemans were in Washington, playing regularly at the Famous Bar and Grill and around town. And in 1962 a man named Billy Barton, who was always trying to help us, managed to get us a guest spot on the Grand Ole Opry. Wow, were we excited! This was our big chance. ...

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14. My First Love Affair: Glen Roquevort/Tony lake

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pp. 84-89

Now, I basically considered myself separated from Gene, although he would occasionally be staying with us. But the children were still very small, really like stair steps. And I had nobody to care about me. Then Tony Lake walked into my life. He was a gentleman, had been trained right. ...

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15. Out West

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pp. 90-95

The people managing the family band, Bob Bean and a new promoteragent, Jack Clement, decided that we needed to perform in the West to get better known. So in 1964 we went out there. First stop, for some shows and some recording, was Beaumont, Texas, George Jones territory. ...

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16. Nashville

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pp. 96-112

After we were so successful in the West, it was decided that we should go to Nashville. Again it was decided by our manager Bob Bean and by Jack Clement, who was establishing himself as a producer in Nashville. And we agreed. ...

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17. George

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pp. 113-122

The reason I finally quit the family band at the time I did was because I had gotten a second husband, and he was telling me to. He thought I could do better on my own. This is how that second marriage went. ...

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18. Scotty

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pp. 123-127

Every time anyone in the family is asked about Scott, it’s just like an awful flashback, like a Vietnam flashback. It was so sad. He was so talented. Lots of people say he was one of the greatest fiddlers ever—he just had a genius for it. I remember a time when he was a teenager. ...

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19. Hee Haw

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pp. 128-150

Before I left the family band, I had an interesting talk with Ernest Tubb. We were doing a lot of shows with him, Ernest Tubb and the Texas Troubadours. Well, I remember one time going on the bus—that same bus that’s now on exhibit at the Ernest Tubb Record Shop in Nashville. ...

Illustrations follow page 150

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20. George after Hee Haw

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pp. 151-152

The best George ever treated me was after I got Hee Haw. We had more money, of course. We bought a big fine house in Smyrna and leather furniture and all the brand new things that we could get. We had Frigidaire appliances which we thought was high dollar. Of course I paid for the house and everything that went in it. ...

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21. The Kids

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pp. 153-159

The kids were growing up real nicely. My kids were all-important to me. If I knew ahead of time that I would have to go through all that stress that I had with Gene not supporting me, and the abuse I had with George, I still would have married them to get the children that I have today. ...

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22. The Real Thing

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pp. 160-169

I was at a bookstore recently and I went “Whoa, wow!” ’Cause there was a book called Big Stone Gap, a novel about a small town in Virginia, by a woman named Adriana Trigiani. And I read some in it and I kept saying “Wow.” ’Cause I know those people in the book. I don’t mean I know those people like I know how it is to be from the mountains and all. ...

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23. My Bronze Uterus

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pp. 170-171

Well I loved having the children, as I said, but years passed and the pain of my monthly periods was getting to be too much. I hated every bit of that part of being a girl. I never saw anything joyous in it. I had a bronze sculpture of my uterus made from a picture of the real thing—after I got it out, of course!—because I was so glad to get rid of that son of a gun! ...

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24. On the Road

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pp. 172-193

Well, what with the popularity of Hee Haw, I had an easy time getting work, and I was out on the road a lot, traveling from show to show, all over the country. That’s a whole new ballgame, being out on the road, and it’s a real big part of any country musician’s life. So here’s a little about what it’s like. ...

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25. Husbands 3, 4, and 5

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pp. 194-215

Anyway, getting back to my family life, it was real clear that George and I had no future together. The final straw was when I came in one day, exhausted from doing three shows in 103–degree heat, and he was laying on the bed so drunk he couldn’t even talk. I got a divorce. ...

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26. Losing Hee Haw

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pp. 216-224

At the same time Barry left me for the last time, took my RV and all my money, I lost Hee Haw, which was why his taking the money was such a disaster. According to the newspapers, Hee Haw was ranked number four or five in the country. But the higher-ups had been thinking for several years they had to “update” it. ...

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27. My Religion

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pp. 225-231

Throughout all the bad times, and the good times, and the middling times, there was one steady thing in my life—my religion. When I was little, I went to the Baptist Church on Sundays. During the summer I went to Vacation Bible School every day for six weeks. I really loved Vacation Bible School. ...

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28. Now

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pp. 232-236

Well, dating’s only fun and games, but the really important part of my personal life has turned out terrific. My kids and grandkids are wonderful, and I spend a lot of time just enjoying them. They’re intelligent and talented and thoughtful and compassionate. ...


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pp. 237-240


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pp. 241-248

back cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780252092596
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252031915

Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2007

Series Title: Music in American Life