Nov. 10: An act of violence three dozen years ago today shocked Nashville’s music community and in fact all of Middle Tennessee: David “Stringbean” Akeman — a funny man, a wonderful entertainer and one of the best frailing-style banjo players ever — and his wife Estelle were brutally murdered as they returned home from his latest Grand Ole Opry appearance. Here he is in action about 10 years earlier, on the syndicated Flatt & Scruggs television show, complete with his signature stage costume and song-ending hat flip.

String and Lester Flatt used to work together, in Bill Monroe’s band. As one of the Blue Grass Boys, String played a two-finger style, more melodic than the frailing method he uses here but still not all that smooth or fast. Feeling that the banjo was holding the band back, Ol’ Lester wanted Monroe to ditch the instrument entirely. He changed his mind after String left the band and Earl Scruggs auditioned to take his place. So this number is a reunion of sorts for those three.

Like his close friend Grandpa Jones (who had the misfortune to discover the bodies), Stringbean is known these days largely from his work on Hee Haw, where he played music like this and told funny stories. And like Jones, there’s a lot more to his career. Find out more on Allmusic.com and on Wikipedia, which includes much detail on the senseless shooting that deprived country music of one of its treasures.

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