Posts Tagged ‘Ernest Stoneman’

Ernest Stoneman (#2)

May 9, 2012

Unsung Father of Country Music: Ernest V. Stoneman,” 2-CD Box Set; 44 Page full-color booklet,  5-String Productions (5SPH001)

By David Cantwell

One of 2008’s best country reissues, maybe even the best, is Ernest V. Stoneman: The Unsung Father Of Country Music, 1925-1934. The 46-track collection is smartly packaged, including a small hard-bound book with lots of photos. But it’s the savvy selection of some too-long-unavailable early sides of Ernest “Pops” Stoneman that excites. There’s his first recording and biggest hit, “The Titanic”; duets with his daughter; fuller string-band arrangements with the Dixie Mountaineers; short comic plays such as “Old Time Corn Shuckin’, Parts 1 and 2″; and even two versions (cut six years apart) of Stoneman’s “All I’ve Got’s Gone”, which remains among country music’s great poverty songs – and one of its catchiest tunes, too.

This is truly an essential, not to mention long overdue, collection. There is, however, the matter of that title. Not “An Unsung Father of Country Music” but “The Unsung Father” – a choice of article clearly intended to not so subtly dispute the long-since-established paternity rights of one Jimmie Rodgers.

The cover’s bold claim is fleshed out in a liner-notes essay by Henry Sapoznik (the man behind that amazing and essential You Ain’t Talkin’ To Me: Charlie Poole And The Roots Of Country Music set from a few years back). Sapoznik argues that it was only pioneering record producer Ralph Peer’s “post-mortem marketing of Rodgers that firmly established the Singing Brakeman as the putative Father of Country Music” and that “Peer crafted Rodgers’ legend…while having eschewed Stoneman’s, whose recorded output dwarfed Rodgers.” In other words, if Ralph Peer had chosen to mythologize Stoneman rather than Rodgers, or if he’d just let history take its un-manipulated course, then we would likely be hailing “Pops” as the father of the music, not Jimmie.

This is needless overreaching. It is well past high-time that fans and historians paid attention to Ernest Stoneman, and Sapoznik is to be commended for his efforts on Stoneman’s behalf. But to press the case for Stoneman by insisting upon a diminution of Jimmie Rodgers is merely to redress one injustice by perpetrating another.

No musical genre (not even bluegrass) can have a lone inventor. That caveat made, there are good reasons why Rodgers is considered the Father of Country Music and why Stoneman is not. The title of Father here has nothing to do with who came first, of course. If that were the case, we’d be calling John Carson daddy, or Eck Robertson, or, for that matter, Vernon Dalhart (if only we acknowledged the pop essence of even the earliest commercial country music). (more…)

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Ernest Stoneman #1

December 15, 2011

The Stonemans is an eye-opening slice of Americana—a trip through nearly twenty years of country music history following a single family from their native Blue Ridge Mountains to the slums of Washington, D.C., and the glitter of Nashville. As early as 1924 Ernest V. “Pop” Stoneman realized the potential of what is now known as country music, and he tried to carve a career from it. Successful as a recording artist from 1925 through 1929, Stoneman foundered during the Great Depression. He, his wife, and their nine children went to Washington in 1932, struggling through a decade of hardship and working to revive the musical career Pop still believed in. (from http://www.press.uillinois.edu)

Book available here.

Ernest Stoneman was the King.  Here is “The Pretty Mohea,” a two hour Hollywood epic distilled to  3:31.