David Akeman, country star killed in his cabin

In Nashville, the Grand Ole Opry is more than an institution: it’s the lungs of music country local. Since 1925, this concert has taken place every Saturday evening, and is broadcast on the local radio station WSM. All the biggest names in the genre have had their habits there, some becoming mainstays of the event.

In 1973, 57-year-old David Akeman, known by the stage name “Stringbean”, was one of the tenors of the Opry. On November 10 of this year, he went there, as usual, with his wife Estell. He is on the air three times, performing titles such as “Y’all Come” or “Hillbilly Fever”. He is a musician and comical, alternating between sketches and songs, once again dressed in his famous extendable shirt tucked into trousers that he wears at thigh level. An outfit, a trademark that gives him the air of a friendly giant.

Birth of a nickname

After his rounds, David decides to go home early. The next day he is to leave for a week of hunting with his great friend, Grandpa Jones, another musician, friend and stage partner. In their absence, their wives have planned dinner on Tuesday evening. Before leaving, he has time to rehearse a piece with the singer Curt Gibson in anticipation of the Opry the following week. Her name is “Lord, I’m Coming Home”. This is the last song he will sing in his life.

When they arrive home, David and Estell are shot by two men, two cousins, Marvin and John Brown. This double murder, it is the end of recklessness in country music, the event that definitively brings this music and its culture into the violence of the 1970s, which firmly anchors it in its time. It is the loss of a major musician of this scene, of a man who embodied a rural and simple way of life, almost anachronistic, admired and appreciated by all. So who could blame David Akeman?

His life ended as it began: in the music and simplicity. David Akeman was born on July 4, 1916, and not on June 17, 1915 as many sources curiously mention. In Annville, Tennessee, his parents brought him up around an obsession, the banjo, which he adopted very early, the old-fashioned way, with this singular technique called clawhammer, which consists of playing with the right hand with the fingers curled up. He quickly became a specialist, spotted by country pundits such as Ace Martin.

Admittedly, he goes through difficult jobs to support himself. But the idea of ​​working on the farm while earning money with music already serves as an ideal. As he goes on stage with Ace Martin for the first time and the leader has to introduce him, the latter forgets his name and improvises a nickname for him: Stringbean. He will keep it all his life.

A Cadillac a year

His career really took shape in the 1940s when he accompanied Bill Monroe. But he already wants to be a soloist. In 1945, he left the formation and took another turn, personal this one, by marrying Estell Stanfill, two years his senior.

He’s still a homegrown guy, uses apple cider vinegar as an aftershave, rubbing alcohol as a deodorant. And perfected his crazy character, this balance then prized between music and comedy, between the music hall and the popular ball. And begins to make a name for himself, especially within the Opry, where he meets grandpa jones, who will become his best friend. For ten years, they go on tour together, mount several concert-shows and settle quietly among the furniture of the radio show.

In 1960, he launched himself into the phonographic industry by signing on the Starday label and released seven albums in nine years, to then find Grandpa Jones as a partner in 1968 in a television show entitled “Hee Haw”, broadcast on CBS. He holds one of the main roles. In short, in 1973, David Akeman aka Stringbean is a deeply loved character, a real country star.

However, his way of life does not change much. He lives at the countryside, in Ridgetop, on a farm he bought with Grandpa Jones twenty years earlier. The latter lived in the large white house with his wife, Ramona, when David and Estell Akeman preferred to invest in the small wooden cabin located at the back of the land. When the Joneses moved a few hundred yards away, the Akemans stayed in the cabin.

They spend most of their time fishing as lovers, drying sausage in the cave located on the ground, living very simply. Thanks to David’s status, the couple has money, but does not spend it. So yes, they have color TV and change Cadillacs every year. But that’s all.

David is a child of the Great Depression, a guy who has lost faith in banks and who keeps most of his savings at home or on his person. It is not uncommon, far from it, to see him take out bundles of his overalls, confident in the community spirit that animates country culture, in this white insouciance embodied, among others, by the city of Nashville. Little violence, a comfortable life thanks to the economic boom of the 1950s and 60s… In Ridgetop, the Akemans and the Joneses lead the life they idealize, modest. To another couple of friends, the Gibsons, Estell will say: “We could leave a bucket full of cash on the porch and tour all summer, it would still be there when we got back.” They plan to end their days there.

In cold blood

On Saturday, November 10, 1973, Estell and David returned from the Opry. Arriving home, David senses that something is wrong. He leaves the station wagon headlights on, takes a .22 caliber from his bag, gets out of the car, Estell staying behind, and heads for the cabin. On the steps, he walks slowly. Then he opens the door, offers himself a view of the ransacked, upside-down interior, feels like a presence. For several minutes, he hesitates to enter.

When he finally ventures there, two men, Marvin and John Brown, come out of hiding and confront him. David Akeman shoots first, misses them, then is fatally hit by several bullets before collapsing against the chimney. Estell, who had gotten out of the car and started heading for the shack, ran away screaming. But no one hears it. If not both burglars, who catch up with her just before she reaches the road. She is on her knees, begging to be spared. But she takes a bullet in the back of the neck and collapses into the ground.

For several hours, they waited in the dark, listening to the Grand Ole Obry broadcast to find out when David was on stage and to estimate his arrival time.

Marvin and John Brown, 21 and 23 years old, had not however prepared their blow too badly. It was simple, by the way: knowing that the Akemans would be at the Opry like almost every Saturday, they had planned to visit their cabin as well as the White House in their absence to find money which David kept so preciously, safe from the bankers and their unsafe business. After searching every corner, after discovering a revolver belonging to Grandpa Jones and a rifle, they did not put their hands on the savings and thought, in a burst of lucidity in the midst of drugs and the alcohol they were in charge of, that the wisest thing would be to wait for David’s return to steal from him the money he always carries with him.

For several hours, they waited in the dark, listening to the Grand Ole Obry broadcast to find out when David was on stage and to estimate his arrival time. When the latter entered the hut and fired, the shooting exploded. Estell fleeing, they felt compelled to silence her. In cold blood.

198 years in prison

The two cousins ​​left with some money, it’s true: 250 dollars found on David’s body. However, they missed the $3,000 he had in a slightly hidden pocket, and the $2,500 stashed in Estell’s bra. They also took a vehicle, a chainsaw, a purse and fire arms.

All that for this: caught by the authorities two days later, they were tried and each sentenced to 198 years of jail for both murders. Yet one gun, one man fired. The cousins ​​passed the buck for a long time before justice decided: it was John who fired the fatal shots. But in the Tennessee 1970s, that does not change anything: in such a case, the sentence is the same for both accused. Marvin will die in prison in 2003. John, he will multiply the requests for parole during the 2000s, ending up obtaining it in 2014 after forty-one years spent behind bars.

Their misdeeds killed two people, but also ended the country’s recklessness. A week after the deaths of David and Estell Akeman, another regular Opry musician, Jimmy Winder, is murdered in a Nashville alley. The following months, the country artists reinforce the security of their homes, hire personnel to protect them, often walk around with a caliber at hand… Their whole ideal is called into question.

After the Ridgetop murders, the Akeman’s cabin was remodeled and inhabited by several local musicians, some famous, keeping Stringbean’s memory alive. It is rumored that sometimes, in the course of some work or research by enthusiasts, wads of banknotes reappear under a field, in the cracks of a low wall or in an air vent, further perpetuating the legend Wacky and Beneficial by David Akeman.

We would love to thank the writer of this post for this remarkable content

David Akeman, country star killed in his cabin

You can view our social media profiles here , as well as other pages on related topics here.https://kjovi.com/related-pages/