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The Stoneman Family

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Biography

Ernest Van “Pop” Stoneman (May 25, 1893 – June 14, 1968) ranked among the prominent recording artists of country music’s first commercial decade. Born in Monarat (Iron Ridge), Carroll County, Virginia, near what would later become Galax, Stoneman was left motherless at age three and was raised by his father and three musically inclined cousins, who taught him the instrumental and vocal traditions of Blue Ridge mountain culture. He became a singer and songwriter, and proficient musician on the guitar, autoharp, harmonica, clawhammer banjo, and jew’s harp.

When he married Hattie Frost in November 1918, he entered another musically involved family. He and Hattie had 14 children: Eddie L., I. Grace, John C., Pattie I. J. William (dec’d.), A. Juanita ‘(dec’d.), Gene A., Dean C. (dec’d.), C. Scott (dec’d.), Donna L., O. James, Reta V. (dec’d.), Veronica L., Van H. ‘

Stoneman worked at a variety of jobs, mostly carpentry, and played music for his own enjoyment and that of his neighbors, but when he heard a Henry Whitter record in 1924, he determined to better it and changed his life as well. Stoneman went to New York and cut two songs for the Okeh Records label. Ralph Peer directed him through several sessions for Okeh and Victor, and he freelanced on other labels as well. In 1926, he added family musicians to his group for a full string band sound.

In July and August 1927, Stoneman helped Peer conduct the legendary Bristol sessions that led to the discovery of the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers. He continued to be active in recording through 1929.

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