Stringbean: Murdered After Grand Ole Opry Appearance In 1973

 

 

 

 

 

 

David “Stringbean” Akeman was born July 4, 1916 in Annville, Kentucky and died in Ridgetop, Tennessee on November 10, 1973.  His friend and co-star of Hee Haw Grandpa Jones found him and Stringbean’s wife Estelle murdered the next morning. Stringbean had been shot and killed inside the house, while his wife was found dead outside.

Stringbean acquired his nickname when the star of a show he was in introduced him as Stringbean and he has been known as Stringbean ever since.

He made a homemade banjo as a child out of a shoebox and thread. Then later he would barter two chickens, for a real banjo and then really began to learn how to play the banjo in the old style.

The Depression would cause Stringbean to find work, with the Civilian Conservation Corps and he built roads and planted trees, as part of that work.

 

Signs With Bill Monroe’s Band

Bill Monroe signed Stringbean as one of the Bluegrass Boys. Monroe had discovered Stringbean when he was playing semi-pro baseball. Earl Scruggs would later replace Stringbean as the banjo picker in the Bluegrass Boys band.

He married Estelle Stanfill in 1945.

Even though he had been playing music and singing since the 1930’s he didn’t record his first album till the 1960’s.

 

Started Sagging Britches Fad

Stringbean might have been an inspiration for the sagging britches fad, as can be seen in the photo on the right. The only difference was that Springbean wouldn’t wear that outfit once he stepped off the stage. That outlandish outfit by itself was enough to draw laughs from the audience.

He never did learn to drive a car so his wife Estelle did all the driving. Grandpa Jones had to clean his guns for him, since he didn’t know how.

 

First Television Appearance

His first television appearance was when he appeared on the Porter Wagoner Show in 1963 and was on another show in 1970. He made one appearance on the Johnny Cash Show in 1971. His big break came when he started appearing on Hee Haw and would be seen in 92 episodes from 1969-1974. The 1974 shows had been filmed previously, before his tragic death in November of 1973.

There were rumors that Stringbean didn’t believe in keeping his money in banks, since he grew up in depressions and saw how many had lost their life savings, when the banks failed. He was known to flash his cash around and apparently John and Marvin Brown, who were 23 year old cousins decided to try finding that money, while Stringbean and his wife were at the Opry.

 

Stringbean Surprised Burglars

Apparently, they didn’t time it right and the Akemans returned from the Opry, on the night of November 10, 1973, before they thought they would or perhaps they were laying in wait for them, so they could rob them of more cash and both Stringbean and his wife Estelle were shot by the intruders. Ironically, they found only $250 and also stole only a chain saw and some firearms. Stringbean probably drew his gun, but was shot before he could shoot the intruders. By shooting him they didn’t have a chance to question Akeman, about where the money was being hid.

They didn’t notice the $3,000 in his overalls pocket or the $20,000 hidden in a chimney. The $20,000 wouldn’t be found till 23 years later. The money had deteriorated so badly, that it was unusable.

Grandpa Jones would find Stringbean’s wife outside and he found Stringbean also dead inside the house. Stringbean was only 57 at the time of his death. Archie Campbell another co-star, from Hee Haw said that he never heard Stringbean say an unkind word about anyone.

To make things worse for Grandpa Jones the tabloids insinuated that Jones had been having an affair with Stringbean’s wife.

 

Murderers Sentenced To 198 Years

John and Marvin Brown, who committed the murders of Stringbean and his wife were each sentenced to 198 years in prison. Marvin Brown died in Brushy State Prison in Petros, Tennessee in 2003, which was 30 years after the murders. John Brown has served 41 years of his sentence. He applied for parole in 2011 and won’t be able to apply again till 2017.

This is what John Brown had to say about the murders: He has a devoted wife who had married him shortly before he was arrested, and she says, “John says that he hopes David and Estelle are in heaven, looking on his life and saying that something good did come of this.”

 

Senseless Tragedy

Country music fans have lost an icon in Stringbean. He grew up dirt poor during the Depression and had to struggle to make it in the world of country music. Then when he finally makes the big money he can’t help but show it off. He had come a long way from having nothing in the 30’s to living comfortably in the 70’s, but his life came to a tragic halt on November 10, 1973. He died at 57 which is young for country music performers, who sometime perform into their 80’s like the great Ray Price who recently died.

City Confidential television show filmed an episode in 2003 about the murders of Stringbean and his wife.

The world of country music lost one of its biggest stars on November 10, 1973, but his memory will live on for years to come among fans of country music.

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More Burma Shave Signs

More Burma Shave signs.

Nostalgia and Now

Several months ago we published some Burma Shave signs seen on the side of American  highways from 1925-1963.

Since then we have found more signs from that era including these:

http://www.fiftiesweb.com/burma1.htm

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From The Past: Burma Shave Signs

Who is old enough to remember Burma Shave signs along American highways?

Nostalgia and Now

I can remember on our family vacations that we would see from time to time signs with funny sayings alongside the highway. Those signs were placed there by the Burma- Shave company. The company had been struggling before they used the signs to advertise Burma- Shave shaving cream.

These signs helped pass the time on long trips across the country and kept the passengers amused by the funny sayings on the signs. Wikipedia.com breaks down the signs into different time periods: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burma-Shave

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Perry Como: From Barber To Million Selling Singer

Perry Como 1912-2001

 

Perry Como was born as Pierino Ronald Como on September 18, 1912 in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania. His parents Pietro and Lucia Como had immigrated from Italy in 1910. Perry was the first of 13 children to be born in America and was the seventh son of a seventh son. Ironically, he would have 13 #1 songs.

He was only 11 when he began his career as a barber and by the age of 14 had his own barber shop. He would receive his first break when offered a job by the Freddy Carlone Orchestra. He had to choose between earning $28 a week with the orchestra or keep drawing the $125 a week he was earning as a barber. His dad talked him into accepting the singing job, since Perry would never know if he would be a success as a singer, until the gave it a try and began traveling with the orchestra in 1933.

His big break would come when bandleader Teddy Weems signed him to sing with his orchestra in 1936.

 

Perry Como early in his career.

 

Como now was in the big money going from $28 a week, with the Freddy Carlone Orchestra, to $50 a week with the Ted Weems Orchestra. Perry almost got fired when with the Weems Orchestra, because the listeners couldn’t understand the words he was singing. He corrected the problem and kept his job. By 1940 he was earning $250 a week.

1942 was a fateful year for Perry who would quit the Ted Weems band and return home to become a barber again. However, before he could negotiate a lease, for his barber shop he was offered a CBS radio program.  He went on the radio program for CBS in 1943. Later that same year he would be offered a recording contract with RCA Records. The relationship would last for 44 years, which is longer than any other major artist.

 

A Perry Como Christmas album that was in my collection at one time.

 

Perry Como was part of a revolutionary broadcast on April 5, 1946, when the Chesterfield Supper Club was broadcast from 20,000 feet in the air. He had to use handheld mike, which became very heavy due to cabin pressure.

Como in Movies and Television

Perry was seen in only five theatrical movies from 1943-1948 and never acted in another movie the last 53 years of his life.

He first appeared in his own television show in Perry Como’s Kraft Music Hall from 1950-1966. I can remember Dream Along With Me being his theme song and the Sing to Me Mr. C. part of the show. Another memory of his show was when the singers sang ” We get letters, stacks and stacks of letters.” It would be great to see some of those old shows again if they even still exist.

Perry Como Christmas 1974 Christmas special.

 

Perry’s Christmas specials were a treat during the years they were shown. His Christmas show became as big of a part of Christmas and the Bob Hope Christmas special. He sang Ave Maria on the specials, but never sang it during a live performance, since he said it is a special song that had to be sung at the right time and at the right place.

Some interesting trivia about Perry from IMDB.com:

Perry Como was a short man who was only 5 foot 6.

He sold over 50 million records and was so humble, that he never asked for certification of most of his records that achieved gold record status.

His only marriage was to Roselle Beline, whom he was married to from July 31, 1933 till her death on August 10, 1998.

Was signed to RCA Records from 1943-1988.

He was the godfather of Debby Boone.

This quote by Perry Como signifies his humbleness: I’ve done nothing that I can call exciting. I was a barber. Since then I’ve been a singer. That’s it.

Perry Como died on May 12, 2001 at Jupiter Inlet Colony, Florida. He was suffering from Alzheimer’s at the time of his death.

 

Perry Como was reportedly as casual as he appeared on television. However, he did not like wearing sweaters, even though he was seen wearing sweaters on television.

A list of 587 songs recorded by Perry Como:

http://www.whosdatedwho.com/tpx_25003/perry-como/songs

When I think of his song Round and Round I think of hearing it played at roller skating rink and it was the perfect song for roller skating.

His first #1 song was Till The End of Time in 1945 and his last #1 song was And I Love You So in 1973.

The complete list of his songs that charted:

http://musicvf.com/Perry+Como.art

This album has 100 of Perry’s hits at a reasonable price and a great way to augment your Perry Como collection, without buying several albums.

http://www.amazon.com/100-Hits-Legends-Perry-Como/dp/B002LZUNCW/ref=sr_1_4?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1395524835&sr=1-4&keywords=perry+como

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dean Martin – 56 Years of Entertaining

Dean Martin 1917-1995

 

Dean Martin was born Dino Paul Crocetti on June 7, 1917 in Steubenville, Ohio. He didn’t speak English until he was five years old. Then he dropped out of school in 10th grade and delivered bootleg liquor, dealt cards as a blackjack dealer and did some boxing as a welterweight. He made this comment about his boxing ability  “I won all but 11.”[, which was nothing to brag about since he was only in 12 boxing matches.  His boxing name “Kid Crochet” probably didn’t help his boxing career.

Martin sang with the Ernie Kay Orchestra and then was drafted by the Army in 1944 and served in Akron, Ohio. He appeared in his first full length movie in 1949, when he appeared in My Friend Irma.

Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. Lewis is now 88 years old.

 

Dean Martin first team up with Jerry Lewis at the 500 Club in Atlantic City, New Jersey on July 24, 1946. The first show did not go well and the owner threatened to fire them, if they couldn’t do better in their second act. That is when they came up with the act, where Martin tries to sing a serious song, while Jerry is doing everything possible to distract from his singing. The act went over big and began their run as a team.

They were heard on radio from 1948 to 1953 on the Martin and Lewis Show. The pair would go on to star in movies that seemed to feature Lewis more than Martin, because of his madcap actions on the big screen. Martin was incensed when a Look magazine cover only showed Lewis, since Martin had been cropped out of the photo.

Their association ended ten years exactly, from their first appearance in Atlantic City. Their friendship was really never the same, until Frank Sinatra brought Martin on stage at the Muscular Dystrophy Telethon in 1976, which was 20 years, after their 1956 breakup. They remained friends, until the death of Martin in 1995.

Peter Lawford, Sammy Davis Jr., Frank Sinatra, Joey Bishop and Dean Martin who comprised the Rat Pack.

Martin was part of the Rat Pack that included Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, Joey Bishop. They would entertain audiences with their mixture of singing and comedy.

He was also active in acting in motion pictures, with his appearances in Young Lions (1957), Rio Bravo (1959) and would appear in Cannoball Run (1981) and Cannonball II (1984).

This was an active time for Martin as he was appearing on stage, recording record albums, appearing in movies and in 1965 he would start appearing on the NBC show Dean Martin’s Comedy Hour, which would remain on the air until 1974. 263 episodes were filmed of the show and hope they can be seen somewhere on a television network 49 years, after the first show debuted on television. Martin also hosted many Dean Martin Celebrity Roast shows in later years.

 

Made Impact As A Singer

 

1958 would see his recording of Return to Me top out at #4 and  Volare peak at #12. It may have been able to climb higher on the charts, but it had been recorded many times, before Martin released his version of Volare.

 

Surprisingly his song You’re Nobody Till Somebody Love You was only #25 on pop chart, but reached #1 on adult contemporary chart. This was the year the Beatles hit America, so that probably had something to do with it.

The year 1967 would see his last two #1 hits, which only went to #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart, when In the Chapel in the Moonlight and In the Misty Moonlight would take the #1 spot.

Dino: The Essential Dean Martin Collection has 30 of his biggest hits and can be found at Amazon.com for one cent, plus shipping if you buy a used copy of the collection.

http://www.amazon.com/Dino-The-Essential-Dean-Martin/dp/tracks/B00021LPIS/ref=dp_tracks_all_1#disc_1

Dean Martin may be one of the most successful school dropouts ever. He became successful as part of the Martin and Lewis comedy act, singing as soloist for big bands, recorded for many years, acted in many blockbuster movies and hosted a successful television show for nine years.

 

 

 

Album Review – Spotlight on Vic Damone – Vic Damone

Released 1995 on Capitol

Spotlight on Vic Damone is the kind of album, that might not seem that special at first. However, after really listening to it you can hear just how good of a singer Damone was and how great the song selections are on this album.

The album starts off with the Cole Porter classic In The Still Of The Night a song which was released in 1937. Damone effortlessly sings this classic and gets the album off to a rousing start. Laura is the kind of song you think of, when thinking about easy listening songs. I first think of Dick Haymes singing Laura on records from the 1940’s, but Damone in my book does an even better job 50 years later on this album.

Shangri-La from 1946 is an easy listening song, that is not recorded as much, as some songs from that era. However, Damone does such a great job on it, that you want to hear it again and again. Close Your Eyes was written 81 years ago in 1933.  You won’t even think of how long ago the song was written, when Damone sings it, since you won’t care how old it is, when you hear his smooth styling.

The next three songs Let’s Sit This One Out, Diane and After the Lights Go Out are not that well-known but Vic Damone’s voice make you like all three songs instantly. Ebb Tide was written in 1953 and Damone had one of the most popular versions of the song. It is a great song that will live on for years.

Is You Or Is You Ain’t (Ma’ Baby) is the most up tempo song on the album. It almost seems out-of-place, since it is so much faster than the other songs on the album. It is the one song on the album, that I wouldn’t have minded seen left off. When most of us think of There! I’ve Said It Again we think of the Bobby Vinton version, but Damone more than holds his own on his version. It was originally recorded by Vaughn Monroe in 1945.

The next four songs Little Girl, Poinciana (Song of the Tree), Change Partners and I Could Write A Book are not songs, that we think of often, but after listening to Damone’s interpretation of the songs we will have an appreciation for all four songs.

The next song is a personal favorite of mine in Ruby. Damone sings it as well, as I have ever heard it sung. The Hawaiian Wedding Song is a special song to me, since I lived in Hawaii for over two-and-a-half-years, so I have heard it sung a lot over the years and Damone’s version makes me feel like I am in Hawaii again.

Let’s Face The Music And Dance is an Irving Berlin classic which is a little up tempo, but Damone is up to the challenge. He ends the album with another slow song Make This A Sad Goodbye. It may be another of the lesser-known songs on the album, but Damone gives it the same attention, as the better-known songs on the album.

Summary: Spotlight on Vic Damone may not have all of his greatest hits, but it gives a sampling that reminds us, why we like Vic Damone so much. This album is a great example of why Frank Sinatra said once, that Vic Damone had the best pipes in the business. This album may not have this effect on other music fans, but for me it made me want to add to my collection of Vic Damone music.

For information purposes only, since I have no financial connection with Amazon: Spotlight on Vic Damone can be bought as an MP3 album for $11.49 for the 18 songs, or can be bought new for $129.89 from an Amazon partner or can be bought used for $1.59 plus $3.99 shipping from an Amazon partner. I bought my copy used and have had no problems.

http://www.amazon.com/s/?ie=UTF8&keywords=spotlight+on+vic+damone&tag=mh0b-20&index=popular&hvadid=2478069250&ref=pd_sl_2npqrfdrwu_ep

Classic Televison: Donna Reed Show

Donna Reed, Paul Petersen, Carl Betz and Shelly Fabares shown in a scene from the Donna Reed Show.

Donna Reed Show was one of the few family sitcoms, that featured the mother. The show debuted on September 24, 1958 and the last show aired on March 19, 1966.

Reed who was Donna Stone in the series was the wife of pediatrician Dr. Alex Stone played by Carl Betz. Paul Petersen who was Jeff Stone and Shelly Fabares portrayed Mary Stone in the series.

Donna Reed 1921-1986

Donna Reed

Donna Reed was born Donnabelle Mullenger on January 27, 1921 in Denison, Iowa. Her first movie role was in 1941, when she appeared in The Getaway. She would act in two other films that year.

1942 was a busy year for Reed, since she appeared in seven movies that year including The Courtship of Andy Hardy. She is remembered for co-starring with James Stewart in It’s A Wonderful Life in 1947, which has become a Christmas classic.

Reed would also appear in From Here To Eternity in 1953. She won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in the movie.

Her first television appearance was in an episode of Ford Television Theatre in 1954. Reed appeared in six more movies and made appearances in three television shows, before she took the role of Donna Stone in the Donna Reed Show.

After the show ran from 1958-1966 she wouldn’t appear on-screen again, till 1979 when she appeared in a TV movie, which was named The Best Place To Be. Reed was last seen as Ellie Ewing in Dallas, in 1984 and 1985 before her death in 1986.

Donna Reed died of pancreatic  cancer on January 14, 1986 at the age of 64 in Beverly Hills, California.

Carl Betz 1921-1978

Carl Betz

Carl Lawrence Betz was born on March 9, 1921 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Betz portrayed Collie Jordan on the Love of Life soap opera in 1951 in his first television role. Betz would appear in his first credited movie The President’s Lady in 1953.

He then appeared in five more movies in 1953, then wouldn’t appear in another movie till 1966, when he appeared with Elvis Presley in Spinout. He had barely finished his last episode of the Donna Reed Show, when he was in the cast of Judd For The Defense from 1967-1969. He appeared in 50 episodes of the series as Clinton Judd. Betz appeared mostly in various television series till the end of 1977.

Betz also died of cancer on January 18, 1978 in Los Angeles, California at the age of 56.

Paul Petersen

Paul Petersen

Paul Petersen was born as William Paul Petersen on September 23, 1945, in Glendale, California. Petersen recorded a song She Can’t Find Her Keys during the time he was on the Donna Reed Show. Petersen made his first television appearance at the age of 11 on Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color in 1956 in the Along the Oregon Trail episode.

He would appear in all 275 episodes of the Donna Reed Show and was the only one besides Donna Reed to appear in all the episodes filmed. He appeared in 83 more episodes than Shelley Fabares, who played his sister Mary.

Peterson appeared in numerous television series, after the show ended its run in 1966.

He will be seen in The Executive which is currently filming and Kathy Garver, who portrayed Cissy on Family Affair will also be in the cast.

The role of Jeff Stone later would cause Petersen much anguish, because he wasn’t being taken seriously, when looking for more mature roles. He had been an original Mousketeer on the Mickey Mouse Club at the age of 8 in 1955.

Petersen would start an organization named A Minor Consideration, which was a child actor support group.

When he couldn’t find work as an actor Mickey Rooney talked him into attending college.

This quote from Petersen explains why he became a child actor:

“I became a child actor because my mom was bigger than I was.”

Petersen was not happy when actor Bill Bixby took his wife: [on losing wife Brenda Benet to Bill Bixby] I was so angry I couldn’t see straight, and what doubled this pain was that Bill was really visible. You know, he was going great guns and I was going in the toilet.

He has reached out to many former child stars, who needed emotional support from someone like him, who had been under the same stress as they were experiencing.

It is hard to believe that the teenage Jeff Stone will be 70 next year.

Shelley Fabares

Shelley Fabares

Shelly Fabares was born as Michele Marie Fabares on January 19, 1944 in Santa Monica, California.

Fabares has 90 acting credits in her acting resume and continued to receive many acting roles, after Donna Reed Show had left the air.

She was in her first movie The Girl Rush in 1955 and also acted in three television series that year.

Her first major role was when she appeared in 15 episodes of Walt Disney Presents: Annette in 1958. That same year would see her appear in her first episode of the Donna Reed Show. She went straight from making her last appearance on the show in 1965 to appearing in three Elvis Presley movies. She appeared with Elvis in  Girl Happy in 1965, Spinout in 1966, and was also in his 1967 movie Clambake.

Then she appeared in 47 episodes of the Brian Keith Show which aired from 1974-1976. Fabares would appear in 27 episodes of The Practice 1976-1977. She would appear in One Day At A Time 1978-1984 in 23 episodes.

Coach would be her next big show, in which she appeared in all 198 episodes from 1989-1997.

Since then Fabares has acted very infrequently with mostly voice roles since then. Her only acting job since 1997 was Playing to Win: A Moment of Truth Movie (TV Movie) which was shown in 1998, so she has not been seen on a television or movie screen in the last 16 years.

She was married to record producer Lou Adler from 1964-1980, then married Mike Farrell of M

She is the niece of actress/comedienne Nanette Fabray who is now 93 years old.

Fabares would have a #1 Billboard hit with Johnny Angel.

One of her major movie roles was in Brian’s Song 1971 when she appeared as the wife of Brian Piccolo.

Carl Betz portrayed her father on both the Donna Reed Show and in the movie Spinout.