Louis Marshall Jones (October 20, 1913 - February 19, 1998), known professionally as 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 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. 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". He also wrote "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?" He would describe a delicious, country-style meal ("Buttermilk biscuits smothered in chicken gravy, home-fried potatoes, collard greens and Grandmother's fresh-baked blueberry pie à la mode!" The cast would reply, "Yum, yum!"), though he sometimes would describe something not so good, ("Because you were bad, thawed out TV dinners!" The cast would scoff, "Yuck!") A running gag was a window that he pretended to polish had no glass. Jones would slip his fingers through the empty frame. He also joined Buck Owens, Roy Clark and Kenny Price in a gospel segment at the end of some shows.
A resident of rural Ridgetop, Tennessee outside of Nashville, he was a neighbor and friend of fellow musician David "Stringbean" Akeman. On the morning of November 11, 1973, Jones discovered the bodies of Akeman and his wife, who had been murdered during the night by robbers. Jones testified at the trial of the killers, his testimony helping to secure a conviction. He identified a firearm found in their possession as one he had given to Akeman.
In 1978, Jones was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. His autobiography, Everybody's Grandpa: Fifty Years Behind The Mike was published in 1984 (written with assistance from Charles K. Wolfe).
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.
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