Hee Haw Tragedy: Stringbean

The other day, I blogged about the death of “Hee Haw” regular Jim Hager. Despite the wholesomeness of the show, here have been some tragedies on “Hee Haw” – LuLu Roman was suspended from the show for one year because of drug abuse, “Hee Haw” honey Marianne Gordon suffered a nasty divorce from singer Kenny Rogers, and Junior Samples died of a heart attack in 1983 while still a regular on the show. However, there was actually a “Hee Haw” murder that some people don’t know about.

David “Stringbean” Akeman came from a musical family. During a performance with Asa Martin’s band, Martin forgot Akeman’s name and simply called him “Stringbean.” The name suck and for a good reason – Akeman was tall and slender. In addition to music, Akeman loved comedy too, which made him a perfect fit for “Hee Haw.” Among other skits, Akeman played the scarecrow on the show, delivering one-liners.

Akeman and wife Estelle lived in a small cabin near Ridgetop, Tennessee, with Grandpa Jones (also of “Hee Haw”) as a neighbor. Despite his success, the couple lived rather frugally, with their one indulgence being a Cadillac. Akeman had survived the Depression and like others from that period of time, he didn’t trust banks. The word around Nashville was that Akeman and his wife kept all their money at the cabin.

Unfortunately, one day two thugs decided to find out if that was true. On a night of November 10 1973, cousins John A. Brown and Marvin Douglas Brown hid in Akeman’s house for hours, waiting for him and Estelle to return from a performance at the Grand Ole Opry. Upon arrival, they shot the couple dead. The bodies were discovered the next morning by Grandpa Jones.

The cousins, both 23 at the time, blamed either other for the deaths. They were both convicted of the murder, with Marvin dying in prison of natural causes in 2003. John remains incarcerated in a Tennessee Special Needs facility. He comes up for parole in July 2008.

For their killings, they left the cabin with only a chainsaw and some guns. However, in 1996, twenty-three years after the murders, $20,000 was discovered behind a brick in the chimney of the Akeman’s modest cabin. The paper money had deteriorated so much that is was not usable.