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Honoring ‘Living Treasures’

Re-enactor Hurt to portray
Grandpa Jones at reception

Oldham County to honor oral historians
at La Grange event

LA GRANGE, Ky. (January 2014) – Known to the world as Grandpa Jones, Louis Marshal Jones was an iconic country musician who captivated the public with his vaudeville-style comedy. He gained widespread fame as an original cast member of “Hee Haw” and became a beloved figure millions would watch every Saturday night on television.

Grandpa Jones

Photo provided

David Hurt has
been portraying country musician
and comic Grandpa Jones since 2001.

Jones was born in 1913 in Niagara in Henderson County, Ky., to sharecropper parents. He grew up in Akron, Ohio, where he learned to play the banjo and yodel, while singing old-time ballads. Jones learned to play the clawhammer style of banjo from Cousin Emmy, which gave his performances a rough backwoods flavor.
For the past 12 years, David Hurt, 68, has been portraying Jones. “He was important because he kept alive the country vaudeville tradition,” said Hurt. “These were the old medicine shows that toured all over before there was radio and TV. Also, he never went electric. He kept old acoustic music traditions alive.”
Hurt said Jones was popular during the Great Depression, especially with rural folks. “The poor and disenfranchised had a hard time maintaining pride. The music helped them cope with a bad situation.”
In 1931, Jones joined the Pine Ridge String Band. Four years later in 1935, his pursuit of a musical career took him to WBZ (AM) radio in Boston, where he met musician and songwriter Bradley Kincaid. It was Kincaid who gave him the nickname “Grandpa” because of Jones’s off-stage grumpiness at early morning radio shows. As it turned out, Jones liked the name and decided to create a stage persona based around it.
Jones had his first hit with “It’s Raining Here This Morning.” His recording career was put on hold for a while when he enlisted in the U.S. Army during World War II. In March 1946, Jones moved to Nashville, Tenn., and began performing on the Grand Ole Opry.
Some of his more famous songs include “T For Texas,” “Night Train To Memphis,” “Mountain Dew” and “Eight More Miles To Louisville.”
Hurt will be the featured entertainment for the Living Treasures reception, scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 18, in the Rob Morris Chapel Educational Building on the Oldham County Historical Society campus. It is located at 106 N. Second Ave. in La Grange. This is a free Kentucky Humanities Council sponsored Kentucky Chautauqua program.
“I chose Grandpa Jones because he is funny, lighthearted and entertaining,” said Nancy Theiss, Executive Director of the Oldham County Historical Society. “People really enjoy the Chautauqua players. I thought the Jones character would be educational as well as entertaining with maybe some people remembering the real Grandpa Jones on ‘Hee Haw.’ ”
Hurt, originally from Harrodsburg, Ky., has also performed as John C. Mayo and Lilley Cornett for the Kentucky Humanities Council. He gives presentations part time, has farmed for 25 years and taught Speech at Morehead State University.
Theiss began the Living Treasure Oral History program in 2007 to honor Oldham County’s elders. “The Living Treasures program recognizes people who have generously served our community with kind hearts and good deeds,” she said.
Eleven Living Treasures are recognized each month throughout the year, with a reception held in January for the past year’s recipients as well as previous treasures. Theiss writes a column once a month for The Oldham Era, featuring someone from the community.
“I love the Treasures because they help me recall my own past in Oldham County while giving me special information about themselves that I can learn from to improve my own day to day living, which I hope others can also benefit from in the same way,” said Theiss.
These oral histories and photographs are recorded, archived and made available to the public at the Oldham County History Center and The Oldham Era website. The tapes are also archived in the Louie B. Nunn Oral History Library at the University of Kentucky.
The Living Treasures reception is “a nice way to show respect to all of the 2013 Treasures as well as keep remembering the Treasures from passed years. It brings together the Treasures for the first time and allows families and friends to get a chance to come and honor their own “Treasure”,” Theiss said.

• The Living Treasure reception is sponsored by the Project Guild of La Grange, which also provides light refreshments. For reservations please call (502) 222-0826 or email info@oldhamcountyhistoricalsociety.org. This program is free and open to the public.

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