About The Artist
Stoney was born Frenchey Edwards in Seminole, Oklahoma on a Christmas eve in 1929. His musical career came about a bit later in life than some born around the same time, but his daughter's "Two Dollar Toy" became the spark for a career that puts his country music career alongside such stars as DeFord Bailey and Charley Pride. He mentioned in one interview he was named after a bootlegger who happened to be passing by that night. Stoney later said he finally went and looked up that person and found that he was the ugliest looking son of a gun so to speak. He was born into poverty which in many ways probably helps us understand the man today, examining his career from history's keen eye.
Stoney speaks in one article about the background of his parents. He mentions that on his mom's side, her parents were part Negro and Indian. While on his father's side, his parents were part Negro, Indian and Irish. Growing up, he would help the family out by hunting rabbits, trapping and harvesting potatoes on the family farm. About the the time he reached his early teen age years, he began to help support his other five brothers and two sisters in the other business of brewing and selling corn liquor - bootlegging. The family's poverty was such that Stoney never advanced beyond the third grade in education and never did learn how to read or write, which adds to the authenticity and simplicity of his sound, music and songs he "wrote". In an interview with Glenn Hunter, he says, "I was only able to go up to the third grade, " he says. "Later, I was too old. I was plum 'shamed to go back to school. I still don't know how to read or write."
In several articles about Stoney's life, we found that the musical talents and encouragement came from their mother. Their mother was a graduate music teacher, graduating with honors, but Stoney says he never took a lesson from her. Still, life at home was not easy in the Edwards' family. For it came to be that Stoney's mom left the family, when his youngest brother was nine months old. It seems that his mom's family was very rich in terms of the land they had, but eventually, she was cheated out of it. It meant after her leaving, that Stoney had to take up the slack and help raise the younger children in the family.
In Richard Guarlnick's book, he devotes a chapter to Stoney and tells us:
"His mother died in 1950, just before he left for California when 'the feds got really rough' and persuaded him that 'there wasn't no future in corn whiskey. When she passed I didn't even shed a tear, but, you know, I just found out she was a very, very lonely woman. She had her whole family deny her, she had her husband beat her out of her rights, you know now there's not enough sadness in my heart for her. Every time I think about it I start getting pissed off. You know how miserable she was? Two weeks before she died she went out to see my sister in California. She hadn't never been to California before, but she told my sister, "Don't send me back to that same cemetery where all my family is buried. I don't ever want to see them again." So there she is buried out in some lonely cemetery out in Los Angeles. There's no end to how disappointed she must have been. Sometimes I think that's why she told us not to call her Mother."His mother, during their time together, did realize that her son Stoney, had the musical talent in the family and she tried to encourage him to learn musical instruments to go along with the country songs he was always singing around the house. Stoney himself says he came from the 'singingest family' you ever heard and actually tried his best to get to record their efforts in a recording session. But reality sometimes sets in along with stage fright and it was a hard task to do so when that recording date approached.
While growing up on a farm, like many people then, he listened on the radio to the WSM Grand Ole Opry. He grew up with Bob Wills as and idol and learned many instruments such as guitar and fiddle. One goal he had was that someday he would play and sing on the Grand Ole Opry.
As poor as the family was, music always seemed to be there, Stoney showed a bit of his musical tendencies when he decided he wanted to learn to play the guitar. It didn't matter if the family couldn't afford one then, he was determined to have something to play, to make a sound. He made his first guitar, the story goes, out of an "...empty gallon bucket and an old window screen". A 1976 press release type of write-up quotes Stoney as remembering, "I didn't care what kind of sound came out of the thing. Just as long as it made some kind of a noise, I was satisfied." A boy and his imagination and dreams were on their way.
Stoney's early exposure to country music was similar to many people in rural areas of the country at the time, a time when the music wasn't bound by other barriers that seemed to have attached itself to the music later. He recalls that his early musical interests were inspired a bit by several visits to uncles who lived in North Carolina. He told Glenn Hunter once that at those get togethers that they would sit around a room in a ring and just sing and pick. The music Stoney was hearing was catching his interest, and he'd just sit down right in the midst of it, taking it all in.
But the poverty of his early life wasn't easy to shake. Like many kids who lived on the family farm, he started helping out early helping with the chores. He'd also do his share of hunting and trapping as well as "...shuckin' potatoes" to help put food on the table. The poverty also influenced his early education - he was only able to go to school through the third grade. He began to drift into another family business, taking part in the brewing and selling of bootleg liquor. Stoney reflected during those times a bit, realizing he had given up his education, but also later found that he was too old to try and go back to the schools at home. He never did learn to read or write.
But that lack of education sometimes sharpens a person's other experiences as they move along in life, giving them perspectives they might not have otherwise gained. Looking back on those bootlegging days, he mused that in those days, everyone knew what was going on, but times were hard then, and folks had an 'understanding' of what the intent was behind such a 'business'. The local law enforcement knew when the crops were good Stoney recalls and might mention to the family that they weren't supposed to be making that much bootleg business that year to even it out a bit. Stoney didn't think much of it, enjoyed it as a matter of fact, for he felt they were giving people what they wanted.
He seemed to have been in that business for quite some time, for in Guarlnick's book, he writes that the feds had started putting pressure on folks in such a business in 1950 - letting them know in no uncertain terms, there wasn't any future in it. His mom died that year, too. Just before he was moving to California, where his mom was when she died, while visiting her sister.
And therein lies another part of Stoney's childhood experiences - a tough family life. The parents separated. There was a time when his father got divorced and kicked Stoney out of the house. He lived with relatives. His mother wasn't in much better shape. For though she was an educated person and was relatively 'wealthy' in terms of the amount of land she had from her family, life turned awry for them. Stoney tries to simplify the tragedy a bit of how her mom was cheated out of the land by her own husband and even perhaps her sisters. It meant also that Stoney grew up apart from his parents, not really knowing a true family life of being able to call someone his mom or dad. He says in one interview, he didn't call them mom or dad, he called his dad, Bub and his mom, Red. "That's the way it was." he says for the kids in the family. "That's what they knew growing up."
It impacted his mother in a way he didn't realize until after she was gone. He tells Richard Guarlnick that he found out she was a "very, very lonely woman". She was miserable at the end Stoney felt. When she went to California, two weeks before she died, and keep in mind, she hadn't ever been to California prior to that visit, Stoney said she told her sister not to send her back to Oklahoma to be buried where the rest of her 'family' was buried. She wanted no part of that. Instead, she's buried in Los Angeles somewhere, apart from the family. By herself. Stoney reflected, "...There's no end to how disappointed she must have been. Sometimes I think that's why she told us not to call her mother."
After moving to California, Stoney found work in various types of jobs - in a car wash, a maintenance man, machinist, construction worker and later, a crane operator in a shipyard. Glenn Hunter's article mentioned he worked as a car scrubber and pipe fitter, too. An article by Craig Baguley infers he also worked as a truck driver and a cowboy. All that time though, the musical fire still burned within him, though on hold it seems, waiting for that spark to bring it to life. In 1954, Stoney married his wife Rosemary. But like many of his friends, he found he had to try and explain to her why country music moved him so much.
It was during this time in the Bay Area, first living in Oakland, then later in Richmond, a town a bit north of Oakland, where he was working where an event started the chain of events that led seemingly to the birth of his professional musical career. He was working as a forklift operator, and somehow ended up inside a sealed tank, where he ended up with the effects of severe carbon dioxide poisoning. It was another setback seemingly in his life. For it was a long road to recovery. For nearly two years, he was unable to do anything, sometimes in a 'semi-coma' state. They told him he had absorbed quite a bit of 'poison' in his system. But he finally recovered. But accidents seemed to find him during this time. No sooner he was back, he ended up breaking his back or perhaps another literal liberty was taken, for Stoney mentions in another interview that his back was broken when they tried to rescue him from the initial accident.
These unfortunate events had a major impact on the family's financial well-being. It meant that money was slow to come by, making life at home tough. And as Stoney recovered, it weighed heavily on his mind. There was almost a nine month period of time where he couldn't remember details, and seemingly consideration was given to putting him in a nursing home situation to care for him, such was the uncertain state of his health then. But at the same time, fate was also setting things up for the next chapter in his life it seems.
He reminisces in several articles about how lucky he was with the family he had and the support he found with them. But the financial burdens were weighing heavily on him. He was unable to provide for them. At that low point in his life, he thought the best thing he could do was walk out on them, thus, seemingly enable them to be eligible for welfare payments. But sometimes, when things seem at their lowest, a spark begins to flicker and legends are born. On one hand he was stubborn, proud; he didn't want to accept charity or welfare. But on the other hand, others worked behind the scenes, dealing with his wife and getting a bit of money to the household.
He had his bags packed. Literally ready to walk out the door. It was late in the night, Stoney was making the rounds, kissing his wife and kids. But before he could take those final steps, his daughter caught up with him, perhaps with the toy in her arm, or perhaps kicking the toy as he bent over to kiss her goodbye and waking her. But in any event, his daughter wanted to know where he was going and if she could go with him. It stopped him cold. And inspired him at the same time.
It was then, he found the inspiration to write what would become his first country record, "Two Dollar Toy", a song that got him his first recording contract. Keep in mind, Stoney was unable to read or write, so that song stayed with him, perhaps in a cassette recorder or forever burned in his memory, a story born of a life-changing event.
The stories are fuzzy as to the timing of moving from these work-related accidents to when his musical career started. But they're consistent. Early on in his move to California, a friend of Stoney's opened a hamburger restaurant and had invited several country music artists to appear at the opening, playing on a stage that was the back end of a pickup truck. At that event, he was introduced to Tommy Duncan, long time vocalist for Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys. And Stoney also performed at that event. A local disc jockey remembered that person. Later, when Bob Wills was recovering from a stroke, Stoney was asked to make an appearance at a benefit show that he was helping to put together for Mr. Wills. But one of the artists, Tony Rose spoke up and said he had heard Stoney sing and he wouldn't mind if Stoney sang a song on his part of the show. Stoney's talent had a way with the audience that day. He sang his song, Merle Haggard's "Mama's Hungry Eyes" and got three standing ovations. And noticed by a lawyer named Ray Sweeney who asked him after the show if he'd like to record. And got him invited to or arranged him to go to the Capitol Records offices shortly thereafter. Timewise, this was about the time RCA's Charley Pride was riding his tidal wave of fame. His idolization of Bob Wills had seemingly led to him now being asked if he'd like to sign a recording contract with a major record label.
One might think he would jump at the chance to sign with a record label, let alone a major label such as Capitol. But Stoney was ever the cautious, leery or perhaps overly thoughtful person. He recalled going to Earl Ball's office, while he listened to the two songs he had recorded for them, "Two Dollar Toy" and "Cute Little Waitress". Mr. Ball was a bit dumbfounded to find out that the person he was listening to on the tape was the person sitting next to the lawyer. Mr. Ball left the room to talk to Ken Nelson, then the president of the label and within the next hour or so, they told Stoney they'd be happy to sign him to a recording contract. But in spite of his life long dream to be a musician, singer and appear on the Opry, he was slow to sign. He went home to talk it over with his wife. He had asked for some time to think it over.
He went home and talked with Rosemary about it; explaining what he thought it meant, the long road ahead, the times he would be away from home, etc. He told Richard Guarlnick of his wife's comments:
"She nodded her head understandingly and then said, "You've been singing all your life and maybe now it will finally pay off for you. I've listened to you sing country music for sixteen years and I've hated it. Now that I love it and think it's got the most beautiful words in the world I hope you give it a try. But no matter what you decide I'm with you 100%."
Stoney took his time making the decision. Almost dragging his feet until his attorney pestered him about a week later to make a decision. Stoney was worried about the commitments and wanted to make sure he could fulfill his end of the contract. Suddenly, all the deliberations Stoney had put himself through seemed to fly by - he signed then and there.
We see a glimpse of the way record labels introduce an artist when they write of the first record release for Stoney, his tune, "Two Dollar Toy". It seems that record labels didn't like to release ballads as the first record for a new artist, so Capitol, went against the grain and released "Two Dollar Toy".
The 'gamble' if there was one, paid off. In one story, its said that the record sold over 10,000 copies the first two weeks after its release. But on the other hand, we read where the song was only on the charts two weeks. Personally, we can still recall hearing the song while growing up and hearing the tune over WJJD in Chicago - a tune that can still be recalled to this day for its haunting line, "Last night a two dollar toy, made a million dollar daddy out of me." It makes one wonder about the validity of such charts. But it also tells you a bit of how Stoney was able to captivate a listener to his music. You didn't know who that voice was, but somehow, it rang true.
Capitol followed up that initial release with his second song, "Cute Little Waitress". The songs kept coming, and soon he released a song that many will consider a bit of a classic in 1973, "Hank and Lefty Raised My Country Soul". It was a tribute to the music he grew up listening to and inspiring him. And therein, lies another piece of the legend that is Stoney.
After the tune had been released, it seems that Stoney was in Nashville one night, at a local watering hole, and none other than Lefty Frizzell himself was there, too. It was said to have moved Lefty quite deeply. Stoney, as the story goes, had met up with Lefty in this place and Lefty didn't know it was Stoney who had done the song at the time, and told him, that he was deeply moved by the song, to the point of tears, for he had thought he had been forgotten, and to him, the irony was that a 'black man was the one who remembered him.'
He had a bigger hit with "She's My Rock" in 1972, that actually reached the Top 20. Later on, the legendary George Jones would have a hit record with it, too. And in more than one interview with Stoney, a story is told about his encounter with George at one of his concerts. It seems that George was doing a performance one night and happened to spot Stoney in the audience. George asked Stoney to come up on stage and do a number. Or two. But in the meantime, after doing his tune, he turned around and found that Mr. Jones was gone. Undeterred, Stoney kept on entertaining the fans and about an hour later, George showed up again, a bit tipsy to say the least.
Later on, he released a somewhat controversial tune called "Blackbird (Hold Your Head High) in 1975, with some racial overtones. Keep in mind, that he once had been refused entrance to a party at the Capitol Records offices in Los Angeles.
Eventually, he severed his relationship with Capitol Records. That lead to a period of time when he didn't record. During that time, he performed mainly in the Texas and Oklahoma areas. He said he didn't do much to stretch himself at the time - he was either going to hook up with another label or he would stop hang it up. He would make a few treks to Nashville, keeping in touch with Jack Clement and Bill Williams. He ended up with Jack Clements and JMI Records around 1978-79, who had Don Williams on their label at one time. Fans will note that Jack Clements was also the producer for Charley Pride at the start of his career.
Around that same time, he is said to have found a will that invalidates the long ago sale by his aunts of the land owned by his mother. That aspect also leads to an investigation of whether 92 million barrels of oil had been taken from land that belonged to the family. That lawsuit could have led to some comfort for the family.
Around that time he moved the family from San Antonio to near Dallas. It was all about being closer to his family. His brother had a place about 75 miles away from Dallas, where before it was nearly 300 miles away.
He recalls in a 1979 Country Song Roundup interview that he couldn't have had a better family. His wife supported him 100% throughout his career, never once telling him to get out of the music business. His friends stood by him. The disc jockeys encouraged him. Stoney mused in that interview, "...I felt in a way that I only got as much as what I prayed for."
While Stoney may not have enjoyed the education that many people find, that doesn't mean one doesn't learn from the experiences life offers and being able to share that with others. Time and again, we find some interesting insights into the music business from Stoney.
"Country music will always be country music, whether we continue playing it or not; it will never die. History is country music. ... I play guitar, and piano, and banjo. I used to play steel guitar. I tune the fiddle different. I just tightened the strings up till they got where it sounded good when I'd draw the bow across it. But I did get so I could do it that way ever time. Then I went to California, and some smart guy in some music school tuned my fiddle. He blew my fiddle career, 'cause I ain't been able to play it since."
Along the way, he made a few more friends in the music business who were impressed by not only the music they heard, but the person they saw. One may have been Tex Ritter. Stoney fondly recalls the first time he was introduced to the audience of WSM's Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee. Tex was the one who would introduce him. Stoney was perplexed that someone of Tex's stature knew so much about him during his introduction. He later found out that Tex had gone out of his way to learn about Stoney and remember it to introduce him. Stoney was a humble person.
In 1971, Capitol released three singles by Stoney that made the charts. Though none reached the top that seemingly qualifies as a hit, fans today would probably recognize the tunes that today seem more personal now that we can look back and know a bit about Stoney's life and career. We've talked about that first song, "Two Dollar Toy". That was followed a few months later by "Poor Folks Stick Together", which enjoyed a bit more of a stay on the charts than the first release. In the late summer that year, a catchy tune, "The Cute Little Waitress" was released, but enjoyed less chart success than the other two. Perhaps they can be recalled not just because they were distinctive tunes, but also they touched everyday life that many could identify with. Stoney wrote "Two Dollar Toy" and "The Cute Little Waitress".
We recall a bit of Stoney's educational background, the shortened education he had. It was a topic that came up in interviews and discussions over the years. He didn't seem to mind the discussion and in one sense, he felt it made him a better songwriter. In Guarlnick's chapter on Stoney's life, Stoney says, "I'm glad I can't read; it scares the crap out of me sometimes how close I came to being an educated man. What I'm saying is, when I think of how many things that's written about that's copied—well, I can't copy anybody else. What I write comes from a natural feeling inside myself. What I write has to be true."
We see perhaps some similarity to the person he sang about in "Hank and Lefty Raised My Country Soul", when he talked about his songwriting. The inspirations for him came in familiar surroundings such as home in Oklahoma. But the hours on the road are long and the guitar is always nearby. They would be on the road somewhere between personal appearances, and Stoney would pull out the guitar, doing some singing and writing new tunes. "...course I have to do it all in my head, and then say the words into a tape recorder. None of my songs have ever been written down on a piece of paper." A typical scene for many musicians perhaps, we can recall reading several mentions of Hank Williams writing some of his hits on those long and grinding roads to the next show.
We also see some astute observations from such a person in other interviews that provide a different perspective than others might derive from the situations in the business. In one 1979 interview, the discussion was about the trend then towards a more "pop" sound in country recordings that perhaps even persists even more today. In those days, it was called "middle of the road" music. Stoney offers this perspective in his interview with Valerie Ridenour,
"You know, a person can get run over in the middle of the road. I think people have come to the conclusion that they're not geared to what they have to listen to anymore. When a person hears something and they like it, they go buy it. I don't consider any music being a crossover in any respect. I feel that a person likes a record without considering it a crossover. What they hear that they like; they don't care who did that record. I try to put myself in their place, the people who buy records. If they hear a record they like, whether its pop, blues, country or rock, they go out and buy it."
We were fortunate enough to come in contact with one of the band members that backed Stoney on his road tours. Jay Glen handled rhythm guitar and vocals and was kind enough to share some of his memories. Another band member, Kip Sheldon, sent along a few photos and clippings as well. Since we're touching upon the year of 1971 or so in Stoney's career, let's take a brief intermission and see what it was like working with Stoney Edwards from the eyes and ears of those who were on stage with him.
Jay Glen begins his rememberances by telling us of how the band got together. In the early 1960's while in high school in Concord, California, a group of guys got together and formed a rock band. They played mainly cover tunes while competing in many "Battle of the Bands" contests in the Bay Area. Jay notes they were doing fairly well, but, the Uncle Sam called and the Viet Nam War caused a four year interruption of their musical careers in 1966.
After doing their stint in the military service for their country, they were discharged in 1970 and 1971. The group reunited and included Jerry Nicklas on drums, Rick Nicklas on lead guitar and vocals, Kip Sheldon on bass guitar and vocals, Jay Glen on rhythm guitar and vocals, and Steve Davis (also known as the Virginia Creeper) on steel guitar.
The steel player, Steve Davis, was one of the original members of Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen.
As time went on, however, the band began playing country music. They were influenced by the likes of Merle Haggard, Buck Owens and others. They worked very hard to make their covers sound just like the original recordings. They played several local bars and ended up playing five nights a week at the Fireside Lounge in Vallejo, California.
Jay believes they were there approximately six months when Stoney's manager, Ray Sweeney, approached them. He asked them to record a demo tape of Stoney's songs, and handed them two of Stoney's albums; "A Country Singer", and, "Down Home in the Country".
As they were prone to do when they began playing country music, they learned every song on both albums, and played them as close to the originals as possible. Ray Sweeney sent the demo tape to Earl Ball at Capitol Records.
That led to them being hired as Stoney's Tour Band, and were aptly called, "The Poor Folks" (after Stoney's hit tune, Poor Folks Stick Together).
Jay thinks this must have been in 1972, as Stoney did not have both albums out until 1972. The group replaced "Asleep at the Wheel", who up until then were Stoney's road band for a short period of time.
The band did a few 30 day tours, including tours on the West Coast, Southern States and Mid-West states. Jay remembers that each band member was paid $1,500.00 for each 30 day tour. That was a lot in those days, he notes, and he thinks most of them always came home broke from, well, "having too much fun"!
When Stoney was on the road, all six of them traveled in a 24 foot Pace Arrow motor home that had Stoney's name and the Capitol Records logo painted on its side. That always seemed to get them a lot of attention while traveling, especially when they stopped at gas stations, eateries and motels. It was mighty close quarters during those travels, but Jay notes, they had a ton of fun!
The group developed a routine while on these extended tours. They would stop at motels where Stoney would get a room for himself, and the rest of the band would make do in the motor home. However, many times the band members would be watchful for truckers leaving their rooms in the early morning hours. The truckers were a sympathetic sort, and would often give them their rooms where the band could shower in comfort, and perhaps even get a few more minutes of sleep. It didn't cost them anything and the truckers were always glad to help out Stoney and his band.
Jay tells of another tour that included playing the RCA Convention (Rodeo Cowboys Association) at the Browns Hotel in Denver, Colorado. They had an extra night available, so Ray Sweeney booked Stoney to play at a nudie bar across the street from the Browns Hotel. The nude dancers would do a set, then Stoney and the band would play a set, and so on through the night. Jay recalls, that was a great experience and somehow deepened their appreciation of country music,
Ray Sweeney's brother (Jay can't recall his name) would travel well ahead of Stoney and the Poor Folks to make sure their tour dates received promotion through radio ads, newspaper mentions, etc. But, sometimes the promotions fell short, as they may end up playing a small country bar near the Mexican border in Texas and would have only about five people in the audience. It was hard to get motivated to play in situations like that, but Stoney, like many singers, performed for those folks as he were in front of an audience of thousands.
One highlight for Jay was playing the famous Cain's Ballroom in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Annother big highlight for the band members was playing with Stoney on the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. Stoney and the band were playing on the same show with Tanya Tucker, a rising new star at the time. However, Jay had quit the band just prior to this tour, and Steve Davis' girlfriend (he can't remember her name) took his place on rhythm guitar. Not long after that, Rick and Jerry Nicklas (who were brothers) and Kip Sheldon also quit the tour.
Jay remembers that Stoney was a very warm and friendly person, and he would often tell them stories of his life as we traveled from venue to venue. Jay wishes he could recall the details of Stoney's many recollections. He said he was a lot of fun to work for, and always took care of us by making sure the band members had money when they needed it. Stoney even paid for Jay's dental work when I had an abscessed tooth while on tour.
Jay thinks Stoney only got mad at him and Rick Nicklas one time when he awoke to find us drinking whiskey while driving the motor home.
The band was a very low budget operation back in those days. All of the sound equipment belonged to the band. There was no sound reinforcement used, just their guitar amps, their PA system for vocals. What a different world it was back then when it comes to technology. Jay wonders if maybe Capitol Records just didn't want to invest much money into those tours.
Jay wraps up his notes by noting that working with Stoney Edwards will always be a fond memory in their lives, and they are very proud to have been selected as his tour band for that short period of time.
In that same interview, he reflected a bit on his career up to that point, 1979. The little boy who grew up listening to country music, dreaming of playing on the Grand Ole Opry. Seemingly he achieved what he dreamed, the goals he had set for his music career. Others dream for hit records, and will even change their musical styles if they think it will get them there. But you get the idea that Stoney's inward honesty and the tougher life he had up to that point gave him a satisfaction that some never find in their career. He said, "I never prayed to be any more than what I got. ... I only asked to be on the Opry, to sing country music. You know, I haven't asked for a number one record. At first I was happy just playing the Grand Ole Opry, knowing the stars out there; that was what I wanted."
Later in that same interview, he talked of those early days in his life, when Roy Acuff became one of his favorites he heard every Saturday night over WSM's Grand Ole Opry. He recalled that Roy's "Great Speckled Bird" was the first song he ever learned completely. He notes that he enjoyed all of Roy's music, a lot of the things he learned about Roy, the person he was. It wasn't because many said he was by then known as the "King of Country Music", it was rather, something simpler. He said,
"I didn't care whether he was king or not. Roy, Jim Reeves, Bob Wills, the Opry, all of this made me want to be in country music."
You listen to the discussions sometimes about music and the attempts to categorize people. Even Charley Pride often mused he was asked, "How come you don't sound like you're supposed to sound." But the truth Charley and Stoney found in music is perhaps worth noting. The sounds they heard are what drew them to the music, gave them a dream, wanting to be a part of it themselves. And then Stoney defines it so simply. Time and again in his music.
With JMI, he scored a minor hit with "IF I Had To Do It All Over Again" in 1978. Later on, he recorded for the Boot Label, in Canada and also had a couple of releases on the Music America label, including "No Way To Drown A Memory" and "One Bar At A Time" in 1980.
In leafing through the Billboard magazines in 1971 around the time his first couple of tunes charted, no advertising was seen for the label's newest star. We did find mention in one "Nashville Scene" column that Central Songs was boasting it was seeing some good activity on the tunes by Stoney Edwards.
Not much is found in the articles we've found of who played in his band. In one 1979 article, it mentions the following:
In one 1977 Music City News article, mention was made of a 'rumor' that he was trying to form a band made up of black musicians. He affirmed the notion, but noted, he had difficulties. He told Cindy Kent, "Problem is, there are a lot of black musicians who play country well, but they don't love country music and I want a dedicated band." In doing research on the early part of Stoney's career, there was another attempt at such a band - right around the time Stoney was starting. Otis Williams and the Midnight Cowboys came on the scene and had a minor hit with "I Wanna Go Country". But the album that was done on Stop Records was intended to be a one record effort, produced by Pete Drake and Otis didn't really intend to 'go country'.
That article didn't dwell too much more on the topic but still offered more thoughtful insights from Stoney. Commenting again on his education, he notes, "I imagine reading is a wonderful thing, but I never missed it."
But a fan or interested person might note that with the music business having its share of people that might tend to think they could take advantage of such a person, Stoney again, shows us a bit of his wisened experiences in life. He told Ms. Kent that his wife went over the contracts, but was also good at "reading" people, often before they go to know them. Stoney says also that he trusted people until they proved they weren't worthy of that trust.
"My word is the only thing I've ever had that meant anything to me. So in my opinion, contracts are only drawn up to be broken - that's why they have loopholes. But how many times can a man break his word?"
In a couple of interviews, Stoney talks of how he wanted to be remembered. In Guarlnick's book, the chapter on Stoney is called "A Simple Little Dream". Stoney is quoted:
"I want to be remembered," he sums up, " as a good singer, as a good person, as someone that people loved, but most of all as someone that people miss. That's my goal in country music. If I can achieve those three things, I don't have to be the greatest star. The best can always be replaced, you know, has to be—but you never replace the good ones. I want to be remembered for a hundred years as a good man and as a good country singer."
Stoney told Glenn Hunter of what goals he had. Even though he had never seemingly had it easy, and found himself realizing a dream of his making music, you sensed he never lost track of what he really was. He quotes Stoney in his article:
If I got any goals, I guess I'd like to be be a rancher or farmer, settle down somewhere like on my brother's place in South Texas," he says ... "But I'll never quit singin'. Someday, I'd like to be as good and famous as Charley is now — and he be famouser."
Perhaps its our own musical tastes, but even to this day, we can remember Stoney's tunes - when you heard them on the radio even then, you paused a bit to listen for the voice was a bit different than the pop sounds that were creeping in, and it reminded one of Merle or Lefty, too.
Around the time the new Country Music Hall of Fame in downtown Nashville opened, one of the first exhibits included mementos from Stoney's career. The HOF wanted to spotlight artists such as Stoney who had to overcome adversity in their lives before achieving their musical successes.
The later years of Stoney's life and career were marked by several health problems. In one instance, he injured his leg in a hunting accident. He underwent open heart surgery, that caused him to cut back. But he kept coming back to the music. He did an album that was produced by Billy Joe Kirk in 1991, called "Just For Old Time's Sake" that included such backup musicians as Johnny Gimble, Floyd Domino, Leon Rausch, Ralph Mooney and Ray Benson. In 1997, he succumbed to stomach cancer.
In an article by Craig Baguley, you get a sense of the respect he had by some in the industry, by those who wrote about the music or were interested in recording it. Craig's 1997 article indicates some of this affection for the singer Stoney was and his music - when he did a record for their "Ragged But Right" label. You get the feeling they were doing a record with not just an artist, but someone who knew country music the way they wanted it to be done.
Stoney's last years saw him battling several health problems. that included the injuries he went through early in his life, to the diabetes problem he battled and finally, the stomach cancer that eventually took his life.
More than thirty years after his first single hit the Top Country Singles charts, he's still remembered. You know somewhere, Stoney's a bit satisfied about that.
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