Ernest V. Stoneman was born in Momarat, Virginia, in 1893. He was a talented multi-instrumentalist (guitar, autoharp, harmonica) and singer who recorded solo and with a number of groups — Ernest V. Stoneman & His Dixie Mountaineers and Ernest Stoneman and the Blue Ridge Corn Shuckers —that were often comprised of neighbors and family members. In 1927, Victor Records would launch a very successful career by recording Stoneman and other artists of his choosing in Bristol, Tennessee. Those other artists included The Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers; clearly, the man had taste
But before that happened, Stoneman recorded for a number of smaller labels, including Okeh. The session yielded eight songs, including the two found on this disc. The others were solo recordings, but the songs on Okeh 40405 also featured Emmet Lundy, a fiddler of some renown who lived in the same county. Lundy was born in 1864, and was rather set in his musical ways by the time he was asked to head up north with Stoneman. This turned out to be the only commercial recording on which Lundy would appear—apparently, he was not that impressed with the sound quality of the recording, and didn’t see much point in pursuing recording any further. He has reason to complain, as even for the time the sound is a little muddy, making it hard to hear the fiddle over the harmonica at certain points in both songs.
Lundy was a farmer and was perfectly content to return to Virginia and play with his neighbors at local celebrations and fiddling contests. Fortunately, he was willing to let Alan Lomax record him for 1941’s Library of Congress release, Archive of Folk Song. He died in 1953.
Stoneman’s early success was severely curtailed by the Great Depression, but he found later success during the Second World War when he formed the Stoneman Family, a musical act featuring a number of his children. They would continue to play with him until well into the 1960’s, even starring in a syndicated television show called “Those Stonemans” in 1966; Ernest can be seen in his rocking chair at 1:35. Note how the director gave much more camera time to the bubbly blonde playing quarter note tambourine than to the low-key brunette who was playing a solid banjo part. It isn’t too difficult to imagine the same choice being made today. Some things haven’t changed since the 60s, though they should have by now.
Ernest V. Stoneman died in 1968.