Folklore and local tales were a foundational element of 1940s and 50s American country music of Appalachia. One man whose existence bridged larger-than-life fables with reality was David "Stringbean" Akeman. His jumbo stature and goofily-tailored wardrobe compounded his effect of bringing the traditional Old Time songs of Kentucky and Tennessee to life with his clawhammer banjo picking and blue-collar yodeled singing voice.
Oddly enough, Stringbean met future bluegrass royalty Bill Monroe in the early 40s on the baseball diamond playing against each other's semi-professional squads. The chance meeting led to a musical partnership with Stringbean picking up the banjo with Monroe's iconic traveling grassers. This introduced Akeman to performing and combining his humor with his musicianship as he would soon begin opening Monroe's shows with his early Stringbean routines. Soon thereafter, Stringbean's talents found a seamless transition to the Hee Haw country-comedy variety television show. Even with String's barnyard goofball act, his stellar banjo playing and traditional hayseed hymns sustained his identity in country music.
Through his successful career, Stringbean remained a sincere, humble feller living with his wife in a small cabin in Ridgetop, Tennessee only splurging to buy a Cadillac. His experiences living through the Great Depression spoiled his trust in the banking system, and it became gossip that he had large amounts of cash stowed away at his residence. One night after performing at the Grand Ole Opry, Stringbean and his wife were shot and killed by two men seeking the country legend's treasure. The men made off with only a chainsaw and a couple firearms before eventually being caught and sentenced for their horrific crimes.
String's legacy lives on in his timeless recordings and their influence on entertainment, country music, and down-home lifestyle.