June 27, 2017

Becoming the Show

080605stoneman.jpg
080605stoneman2.jpgRoni Stoneman, the Grayson County banjo picker who found fame in the old Hee Haw television series, showed up at the Floyd County Store for the Friday Night Jamboree last evening to pick, grin and sing before a packed house.

Stoneman, 67, became the focus of The Roanoke Times story on Floyd and the Crooked Road Music Trail earlier in the week and I castigated writer Ralph Berrier Jr. for spending so much time on Stoneman at the expense of the local musicians who make Floyd, and the Jamboree, so unique.

“Dude, we have done sooooooooooooooo many stories about Floyd and the Friday Night Jamboree,” Ralph responded in an email. “The assignment was to come away with something that wasn’t the same story we’ve done for 15 consecutive years.”

OK, I’ll give Ralph that and, after watching Stoneman steal the show on stage Friday night I can understand how she managed to become the focus of his story. She’s a pure entertainer who plays to an audience with an endless collection of jokes, frequent references to her days on Hee Haw and antics spiced up by well-honed, and sometimes raunchy, cornpone.

She drew a large crowd outside the store as she jammed with longtime Jamboree regular Clyde Williams and his musicians and then took to the stage in the final set, singing a hoarse rendition of “My Blue Ridge Mountain Home” and playing banjo on other songs. She’s a fair singer but a pretty damn good banjo picker.

Yet putting a celebrity on stage, even one whose career is defined by a television show that went off the air 23 years ago, can disrupt the flow of The Friday Night Jamboree, a long-running music tradition where the music, not the person, is the star.

While Stoneman’s appearance at the Jamboree was a pleasant enough diversion, let’s hope evenings where celebrities take center stage over the music don’t become a habit at The Jamboree.

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