Hillbilly-Music.com - Keeping Country Music History Alive
Hillbilly-Music Folio Display

Who Roni Stoneman
What Banjo Great & ‘Hee Haw’ Star Roni Stoneman Passes
When February 22, 2024
Where Nashville, TN

Roni Stoneman, a member of the CMA Award-winning group The Stonemans and a longtime comedian and musician on the country television show Hee Haw, has died at age 85.

Born Veronica Loretta Stoneman in 1938, she was the youngest daughter of Country Music Hall of Fame member Ernest V. “Pop” Stoneman (1893-1968). He and his wife Hattie Frost Stoneman (1900-1976) had 23 children, 15 of whom survived to adulthood and seven of whom formed a family band with him. Pop Stoneman was one of country music’s pioneers of the 1920s. He faced hard times during the 1930s, then began rebuilding his career with his children.

Roni Stoneman was raised by her parents to become a country music professional. At around age 9, she joined the family act in 1947, which was initially billed as Pop Stoneman and His Little Pebbles. Three of the children became renowned for their instrumental talents. Roni perfected three-finger bluegrass banjo. Donna excelled at “cross picking” mandolin. Scotty Stoneman (1932-1973) was a five-time national fiddle champion who was regarded as one of country music’s great fiddlers before dying of alcoholism.

In 1957, Roni Stoneman, age 19, was tapped to play on American Banjo: Tunes & Songs in Scruggs Style. This is now regarded as the first bluegrass album. During the early 1960's, The Stonemans became wildly popular on folk and bluegrass festival stages, playing everywhere from the Monterey Folk Festival to the Smithsonian Institution.

She and The Stonemans began recording for Starday Records in 1962. In 1965, The Stonemans relocated to Nashville, where they were guided by Jack Clement on a series of albums for MGM and RCA. In 1966, the group landed its own syndicated TV series, Those Stonemans, and became the long-running headline act at The Black Poodle nightclub in Printer’s Alley. Roni’s solo spot was often the comedic “Dirty Old Egg-Sucking Dog.”

In 1967, The Stonemans won the inaugural CMA Vocal Group of the Year award. After Pop died in 1968, Roni’s autoharp-playing older sister Patsy Stoneman (1925-2015) assumed leadership of the family group. The 1969 Pop Stoneman Memorial Album on MGM contained a gem, a previously recorded Roni Stoneman and Pop Stoneman duet on the folk song “The Mountaineer’s Courtship.” This was one of the last attempts to market old-time music by a major label. On the road, Roni’s comedy and banjo talents, plus Donna’s dancing and mandolin work, continued to define The Stonemans’ showmanship.

Roni left the group for a solo career around 1971. Two years later, she joined the cast of Hee Haw. The show routinely showcased her banjo virtuosity, but she became even more beloved for portraying the braying, gap-teethed, ironing-board harpy “Ida Lee Nagger,” shrieking one liners at her shiftless drunk of a husband, “LaVerne” (Gordie Tapp).

In between annual tapings of the show, Roni Stoneman headlined as a solo act at Disneyworld, entertaining an estimated 250,000 fans there in 1976. She also appeared in the 1975 film W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings starring Burt Reynolds. An acclaimed 1981 double LP titled The First Family of Country Music showcased nine Stoneman siblings, including Roni. Her daughters Barbara and Georgia also appeared on the record, as did the children of her brothers and sisters. She launched her own Roni Stoneman’s Music Park in Kentucky in 1989. It failed, leading to her bankruptcy petition late that year.

Her skits on Hee Haw continued. In addition to her “Ida Lee’ character, she was “Mophead,” the maid in the “Empty Arms Hotel” skits. She also starred in the show’s Hee Haw Banjo Band, demonstrating her picking prowess. Hee Haw became the most successful and longest lived syndicated TV program in history. During her tenure with the show, she recorded solo efforts for the Chart, Dot, Playback and Spin Chek labels. Roni Stoneman remained with Hee Haw until 1991. In 1992, she formed her all-female country band The Daisy Maes. In the 1990's, she worked the bluegrass-festival circuit with her bluegrass group Formal Grass. She divorced the fifth of her abusive husbands during this era.

Sometimes billed as “The First Lady of the Banjo,” Roni Stoneman continued to book solo shows into the early 2000s. She entertained in country nightclubs, on bluegrass festivals and at college campuses. She appeared at the annual International Country Music Conference of academics in Nashville in 2003 and 2012. She recorded a solo CD, Bummin’ Around, and collaborated with sister Donna on The Legend Continues. With sister Patsy, the women also issued The Stoneman Tradition. In 2007, Roni Stoneman published her autobiography, Pressing On. She and her family were inducted into the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame in 2021.

Roni Stoneman died on Thursday, Feb. 22 surrounded by her children. She had been in hospice care recently. Her death leaves sister Donna, 90, as the original family’s sole survivor. In addition to Donna, Roni Stoneman is survived by five children. Funeral arrangements have not been announced.

Other Articles of Interest:

(Note: Some news media sites require user registration to read articles and/or to send you 'targeted' email from advertisers.)

Contact Robert K. Oermann
Music Row


Yes, Hillbilly Music. You may perhaps wonder why. You may even snicker. But trust us, soon your feet will start tappin' and before you know it, you'll be comin' back for more...Hillbilly Music.

Hillbilly-music.com ...
It's about the people, the music, the history.