A Bluegrass Murder – Trivia Question

This Contest is Closed
The winners are:
Andy Bing
Todd Evans
Guillermo HErnandez
Dick Stock
Roy Streever
Gayle Yeomans

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What Hillbilly/Bluegrass Performer was Murdered 50 Years Ago?

What famous hillbilly/bluegrass music performer was murdered Nov 11 1973? NEVER FORGET!

A. Stringbean (and his wife Estelle)

B. Roy Lee Centers (Ralph Stanley’s guitar player and lead singer)

C. Uncle Dave Macon

D. Red Allen

E. Carter Stanley

F. Stoney Cooper (fiddling husband of Wilma Lee Cooper)

G. Charlie Monroe


Additional Bowden Comments

Well done to the six winners.

Can’t be “happy” about this trivia though. It was just AWFUL. I remember it even made my hometown newspaper in Maine, the Bangor Daily News. I was 20. Two lowlifes from around Nashville heard from a relative who worked at the Grand Ole Opry office that Stringbean was rumored to ALWAYS carry a huge wad of $100 bills in his bib overalls pocket. (For instance, he always paid cash on the spot for his new Cadillac). They laid in wait at String’s little cabin outside of Nashville for him to return from the Opry that Saturday night. String came through the door and they accosted him — String pulled his pistol and a shootout ensued, which killed ole String in his living room. His wife Estelle ran out the door, and one of the creeps chased her down the snowy driveway and shot her down like a dog. The two idiots couldn’t find any money at all, so they stole a couple of String’s hunting guns and took off.

Poor Grandpa Jones came by the next morning and discovered Estelle prone in the frosty driveway, then found String dead on the floor inside.

And yes, Sam Bush did write and record The Ballad of String and Estelle. It played quite a lot on the bluegrass radio stations several years ago.

All of the Opry and Nashville was in an uproar. String wasn’t known to have an enemy in the world.

Soon the police got some tips and leads and they arrested a pair of cousins from the neighboring town, finding at least one of the stolen guns, but perhaps not the murder weapon.

The skunks were tried and sentenced to LONG prison terms. For decades, every time they came up for good behavior parole, a delegation from the Grand Ole Opry would go to the parole board meeting to protest. After about 30 years, one of them did get parole, and he kept a LOW profile til he died. His cousin died in prison.

The “end” of the story involves the sale of String’s property and cabin. When the new owners began renovations, they were taking the fireplace apart and found something on the order of $20,000 in mouse-eaten bills tucked up inside the chimney — worthless.

String was beloved by young bluegrass banjo players who went to the Opry to audition (for Monroe, Jim & Jesse, Wilma Lee Cooper, etc) String used to hang around the side exit smoking his pipe. He would observe the security guard challenging any banjo-toting supplicants outside. String would always say “he’s all right, I know him” so the young picker could get inside. This happened to my old music partner Bob Mavian of Westchester County, when he went to the Opry to audition in 1958 (he got hired). Many banjo players tell this same story — String got ’em in.

And yes, it’s correct, String WAS the first 5 string banjo player of the Blue Grass Boys about 1943. He was replaced by Earl Scruggs in 1945. String played on Monroe’s 1945 Columbia recording sessions and is clearly audible — playing all two-finger style.

The next most accurate choice would by Roy Lee Centers, Ralph Stanley’s best lead singer after brother Carter. Roy Lee was shot down after a big party in Kentucky, about 6 or 7 months after String. Roy Lee’s young (under 10) son witnessed the whole thing. However, it is suggested the legal system in that county in Kentucky was biased to favor the shooter (a deputy), and no charges were brought, and a civil suit went nowhere. All bluegrass fans call it murder, more or less.

None of the other choices were murdered or died from violence or accident. Well, Charlie Monroe was known as a scrapper, and for his entire career when posing for a photo he showed only the right side of his face, because he bore a big knife fight scar on the left side of his face!

Dick Bowden

Dick Bowden recently retired after a 45 year career in the paper industry, and moved from Connecticut to Big Indian NY (Ulster County) where he ekes out a precarious existence as a groundskeeper. Dick has been performing bluegrass music on banjo and guitar since 1966 in his home state of Maine, throughout New England, and internationally with The Case Brothers - Martin & Gibson. He has performed for HVBA with the Old Time Bluegrass Singers, and also sent in a squadron of Dick Bowden's Flying Circus. Most recently Dick has played Dobro (tm) with the Tennessee Mafia Jug Band. Dick has written many articles for Bluegrass Unlimited, Bluegrass Today, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass magazine) and HVBA.

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