Peter Cooper: On Nov. 10, 1973, Tex Ritter stood on the Ryman Auditorium stage and brought David “Stringbean” Akeman to the “Grand Ole Opry.”
“Stringbean, like Grandpa Jones, since the ‘Hee Haw’ shows is playing a lot of colleges,” Ritter said, “he’s playing all over the country, and he doesn’t work for his old price anymore. Give a hand to Stringbean!”
And they did, and the scarecrow-looking banjo player shuffled his way into view of the Ryman crowd. He told a joke about informing a curious ticket-holder that he was part of the show and the woman responding, “Lord help the other part.” Then he said, “Let’s have a sing-along!”
And they did, with Stringbean’s voice at the forefront.
“When you live out in the country, everybody is your neighbor, on this one thing you can rely,” he sang.
And perhaps you could. But it hasn’t been that way in Middle Tennessee for 40 years. On the chilled morning of Nov. 11, 1973, Stringbean Akeman, 57, and his wife, Estelle, 59, were found murdered on their Goodlettsville property, out in the country. The killings were cause for grieving, anger and paranoia and marked the end of country music’s innocent era.