Grandpa Jones (Louis Marshall Jones)

Grandpa Jones

Grandpa Jones

He is best remembered as an old time country and gospel music singer banjo player who always wore his pants tucked inside his boots, whose animated performances were often characterized by his leg kicks and foot stomping, and as a charter cast member of the CBS television show “Hee Haw” that aired from 1969 to 1971 before a 20-year run in local syndication. He was born Louis Marshall Jones in Niagra, Kentucky, spending his teenage years in Akron, Ohio where he started singing country music songs on radio station WJW. In 1931 he 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. He liked the name and decided to create a stage persona based around it and started performing under the name, playing the guitar, yodeling, and singing mostly old-time ballads. In 1937 he met musician Cousin Emmy in West Virginia who taught him the art of the clawhammer style of banjo playing, which gave a rough backwoods flavor to his performances. In 1942 he joined radio station WLW in Cincinnati, Ohio where he met fellow Kentuckian and country musician Merle Travis. A year later they made their recording debuts together for Syd Nathan’s upstart King Records and by 1944 he was making records under his own name, and had his first hit with “It’s Raining Here This Morning.” Shortly afterward he enlisted in the US Army and after his discharge in 1946, he went back to recording for King Records. In March 1946, he moved to Nashville, Tennessee and started performing on the Grand Ole Opry. In October of that year he married Ramona Riggins who, as an accomplished performer herself, would also be a part of his performances. Some of his older famous songs that he recorded include “Eight More Miles to Louisville” (1946, which he wrote), “Old Rattler” (1947) and “Mountain Dew” (1947). In 1956 he signed with Decca Records and recorded 16 songs, including “The All-American Boy” (1959, which reached number 21 on the US Country charts), “T For Texas” (1962, which reached number 5 on the US Country charts), and “Night Train To Memphis” (1963). In 1969 he gained unprecedented national exposure when he joined the television show “Hee Haw” where he played banjo by himself or with fellow banjo player David “Stringbean” Akeman and also provided slapstick comedy in skits. He also joined cast mates Buck Owens, Roy Clark and Kenny Price in a gospel segment at the end of some shows. In 1978 he inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. His autobiography, “Everybody’s Grandpa: Fifty Years Behind The Mike” was published in 1984. In January 1998 he suffered two strokes after his second show performance at the Grand Ole Opry and died a month later in Hermitage, Tennessee at the age of 84

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  • October, 20, 1913
  • Niaagra, Kentucky


  • February, 19, 1998
  • Nashville, Tennessee

Cause of Death

  • Stroke

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