David "Stringbean" Akeman
N 36° 17.722 W 086° 43.547
16S E 524622 N 4016744
Quick Description: Star of the Grand Ole Opry and the popular TV Show Hee-Haw.
Location: Tennessee, United States
Date Posted: 7/19/2006 11:25:31 AM
Waymark Code: WMHQB
David Akeman was born in Annville, KY on June 15, 1915. He became known in the 1930's for his country humor and banjo picking. He got the name Stringbean because he was so lean and lanky. He became a member of the Grand Ole Opry Cast and later joining the popular TV show, Hee-Haw He was as modest and unassuming off screen as he was on TV. Though he and his wife, Estelle, drove a new Cadillac, while living in a tiny cabin near Ridgetop, TN, which was about 20-miles from downtown Nashville.
Grand Ole Opry Star Grandpa Jones lived nearby, and visited with String and Estelle on a daily basis. Because he was of an impressionable age during the Great Depression, he developed a strong distrust of banks, and it was a well-known fact that he carried around a wad of money in the bib pocket of his overalls. Fellow Opry stars and friends, fearing for his safety, tried with little success to get him to put his money into a bank. On Sunday morning, November 11, 1973, Grandpa Jones awoke and saw no smoke coming from Stringbean's chimney. He walked over to the Akemans' cabin to find his long-time friends dead, victims of a robbery that turned into a double homicide. The cabin was ransacked, but very few possessions were missing. The community was devastated.
Twenty years after the murder, residents of String's old cabin saw tiny bits of paper falling into their fireplace. They found that Stringbean had stashed his money behind a brick in the chimney, and mice had gnawed on it until all that was left was shreds of the money, estimated at $20,000.
Stringbean is buried in on “Music Row” in the Forest Lawn Cemetery in Goodlettsville, Tennessee. Located nearby are the graves of Country Music Stars “Hawkshaw” Hawkins, “Cowboy” Copas, “Lefty Frizell and Beecher Kirby, better known as “Bashful Brother Oswald.
Growing up in a hotbed of old-time banjo playing close to the homes of Buell Kazee, Lily Mae Ledford, and B.F. Shelton, David Akeman as a child learned banjo from his father. Joining Asa Martin's band after winning a local talent contest, Martin forgot Akeman's name onstage and referred to the tall, skinny youngun' as "Stringbean". The name stuck.
"Stringbean" Akeman played in various local bands around Lexington, Kentucky during the late 1930's and made frequent appearances on WLAP. 'String played semi-pro sandlot baseball in his spare time, and caught the attention of Bill Monroe, who sponsored and played semi-pro ball himself. Monroe hired 'String on the strength of his baseball skills, not even knowing he was a skilled banjoist as well. 'String played with Monroe for three years contributing banjo to Monroe classics such as "True Life Blues" and "Footprints In The Snow".
Copying a costume he had seen worn by comedian Slim Miller at Renfro Valley, 'String began performing with Lew Childre on the Grand Ole Opry. At the Opry, he met and befriended Uncle Dave Macon, who shared songs and playing tips with 'String and eventually gave him one of his banjos. String appeared regularly on the popular "Prince Albert" portion of the Opry hosted by Red Foley, and also began a long friendship with Louis "Grandpa" Jones, another Opry claw-hammer banjo player.
In 1960, Stringbean's first solo album, "Old Time Banjo Pickin' and Singin'" was released on Starday. String also released a tribute album to Uncle Dave Macon on Starday.
In 1968, Stringbean was invited to join the cast of a summer-replacement rural comedy program called "Hee-Haw". Although the show was not expected by the networks to be popular, it quickly became one of the biggest hits in television history, making Stringbean and his hang-dog demeanor and dead-pan delivery famous worldwide.
On the evening of November 10, 1973, Stringbean and his wife Estelle were murdered in their home, north of Nashville, Grand Ole Opry Star “Grandpa Jones, discovered their bodies. Stringbean and his wife are buried in the Forest Lawn Cemetery in Goodlettsville, Tennessee.
Date of birth: 06/17/1915
Date of death: 11/10/1973
Area of notoriety: Entertainment
Marker Type: Horizontal Marker
Visiting Hours/Restrictions: Daily, 8:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Fee required?: No
Web site: [Web Link]
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