1938 – 2024

Roni Stoneman

“For Roni Stoneman, known as ‘The First Lady of the Banjo,’ country music was a birthright and her life’s work. The second youngest of twenty-three children born to Hattie and Ernest ‘Pop’ Stoneman, Roni was an integral part of a bedrock country music family, who were longtime fixtures in the country music scene of Washington, DC. For eighteen years on ‘Hee Haw,’ she stole scenes as both a skillful banjo player and as a comical, gap-toothed country character. She was a great talent and a strong woman.”

—Kyle Young, CEO
Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

Photo of Stoneman in 1965 from Walden S. Fabry Collection, courtesy of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum


Going Down the Road Feeling Bad

About Roni Stoneman

Whether delivering punchlines on television’s Hee Haw, or displaying her prowess on the banjo, Roni Stoneman—who died February 22 at age eighty-five—brought smiles to audiences’ faces for more than sixty years.

Hailed as “The First Lady of Banjo,” Stoneman was one of twenty-three children born to fiddler Hattie Stoneman and country recording pioneer Ernest V. “Pop” Stoneman (a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame since 2008).

“They were passing through Washington, going to a picking job,” she recalled in 1983. “And Mama said, ‘Hark, I feel a pain.’ And that was me!”

In the 1960s, Stoneman rose to prominence alongside her father and siblings in the family band called the Stoneman Family. The group starred in their own syndicated television program in the late 1960s and won the CMA award for Vocal Group of the Year in 1967.

Four years later, Stoneman departed the group, and in 1973, became a regular cast member in a celebrated, eighteen-year run on Hee Haw.

She captured viewers’ attention as “Ida Lee Nagger”—often swinging an iron or a skillet at her character’s husband, “Lavern” (Gordie Tapp), with a gap-toothed sneer and ribbons scattered through her hair. But Stoneman also made a powerful impression as one of the rare female instrumentalists on “Hee Haw,” picking her banjo with aplomb alongside Roy Clark, Grandpa Jones, and others.

In 2007, Stoneman released an autobiography, Pressing On, and continued to give performances into 2023.

The video clip of Stoneman performing “Going Down the Road Feeling Bad” aired on TNN’s Nashville Now on September 26, 1983.

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