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Akeman, Stringbean (1914-1973), banjo player and comedian  

Colin Escott

Akeman, Stringbean (17 June 1914–10 November 1973), banjo player and comedian, was born David Akeman in Annville, Kentucky, the son of James Akeman and Alice (maiden name unknown). Situated halfway between Corbin and Richmond, Annville was part of a region that produced several other notable banjoists, such as ...


Ford, Whitey (1901-1986), vaudeville and country musician and comedian  

Patrick Joseph O’Connor

Ford, Whitey (12 May 1901–20 June 1986), vaudeville and country musician and comedian, also known as the Duke of Paducah, was born in DeSoto, Missouri, fifty miles from St. Louis. The names and occupations of his parents are unknown. When he was one year old his mother died, and he was sent to Little Rock, Arkansas, to be reared by a grandmother. Ford attended Peabody Grammar School, acting in school plays and performing in talent shows. He ran away at age seventeen to join the navy during World War I and served four years. During this time he practiced on the tenor banjo, at that time a competitor with the guitar, until he became an accomplished performer. ...


Jones, Grandpa (20 Oct. 1913–19 Feb. 1998), country musician, gospel singer, and comic performer  

Corey J. Murray

Jones, Grandpa (20 Oct. 1913–19 Feb. 1998), country musician, gospel singer, and comic performer, was born Louis Marshall Jones in Niagara, Kentucky, the youngest of ten children of David C. Jones and Arcadia Wise, tobacco sharecroppers. His father was an old-time fiddler, who played tunes like “Bonaparte’s Retreat,” and his mother sang old ballads and played the concertina. Jones spent his early childhood moving with his family from one farm to another in the hills of northwestern Kentucky. A crystal radio set provided entertainment, and on Saturday nights the family listened to WLS’s ...


Lewis, Ted (06 June 1890–25 August 1971), entertainer, musician, and bandleader  

James Fisher

Lewis, Ted (06 June 1890–25 August 1971), entertainer, musician, and bandleader, was born Theodore Leopold Friedman in rural Circleville, Ohio, the son of an owner of a dry goods store whose name cannot be ascertained. Young Theodore began his show business career performing in a nickelodeon in his hometown and learned to play the clarinet in his school band. As a beginning clarinetist, Lewis was something of a prodigy. Although he was never regarded seriously as a musician, he played easily and improvised naturally. Having no desire to go into the dry goods business and still in his teens, he went to Columbus, Ohio, where for a time he demonstrated instruments in a music store. His freewheeling improvisations amused customers but eventually caused him to lose the job....


Smith, Stuff (1909-1967), jazz violinist, singer, and comedian  

Barry Kernfeld

Smith, Stuff (13 August 1909–25 September 1967), jazz violinist, singer, and comedian, was born Leroy Gordon Smith in Portsmouth, Ohio, the son of Cornelius T. Smith, a barber and musician, and Anna Lee Redman, a schoolteacher. Smith’s birth certificate gives 13 August, but he celebrated his birthday on 14 August, for reasons unknown (perhaps superstition); also, he was known to many as Hezekiah (or by the nickname Hez), but this name is not on the certificate....


Cover Smith, Stuff (1909-1967)
Stuff Smith © William P. Gottlieb; used by permission. William P. Gottlieb Collection, Library of Congress (LC-GLB23-0788 DLC).