Born in Niagra, Kentucky on October 20, 1913 as Louis Marshall Jones. He was the youngest of 10 children, (7 brothers and 2 sisters), and the progeny of musically talented parents. His father was a fine fiddle
player and his mother was a vocalist and played the concertina
. His brother Aubrey bought him a guitar
for 75 cents, and young Louis had mastered it well enough by the age of 11 to sit in with the local band at dances. By the late 1920s, Louis had become a devotee of country music's first major recording star Jimmie Rodgers
As a student at Akron, Ohio's West High School, Louis entered a talent contest which he won with a pair of Jimmie Rodgers' tunes. The first prize was $50 in gold coin, and Louis quickly invested that prize money in a Gibson guitar, his first really good musical instrument. The win in the talent contest also got Louis his first spot on radio.
After a year as a performer on radio, he joined up with Joe Troyan, a comedian/harmonica player. The duo landed a job with the popular Lum and Abner show as part of their house band. They worked with that program until it moved from Cleveland, Ohio to Chicago, Il. Louis Jones and Joe Troyen soon moved to Boston's WBZ where they worked with Bradley Kincaid, a fellow Kentuckian. Kincaid expanded young Louis Jones' musical experience and knowledge of show business as well as exposing him to a large audience throughout the eastern US. It was Bradley Kinkaid who gave Jones his signature knee boots, and also the moniker Grandpa Jones, as he sounded much older than his 22 years. Jones, with the aid of a friend, embellished the image of the 'grouchy old feller' with the addition of the signature wire-rimmed glasses, smashed hat, and a fake mustache.
In 1937 young Louis Jones published his first song and followed it up with many others. After ending his work with Kincaid, Jones hit the road, working for several radio stations. He made stops in Fairmont and Charleston, WV as well as the hugely popular WWVA radio (AM 1170) in Wheeling, WV where he was part of their WWVA Jamboree. It was during this period that Grandpa Jones met fellow entertainer Cousin Emmy, took up the banjo and learned from her the style of play called 'clawhammer' banjo.
By 1942 Grandpa Jones had moved along to Cincinnati, Ohio where he was a fixture on WLW (AM 700) radio's Boone County Jamboree. It was there that Jones made several important connections such as legend Merle Travis and also with the Delmore Brothers. It was in Cincinnati that he began his recording career. It was there that he met his future wife, a young fiddler and mandolin player named Ramona Riggins.
Grandpa Jones' career was interrupted by WW II, and he eventually was posted to Germany. His musical bent didn't wither on the vine while in the service. He formed a group named the Munich Mountaineers, which broadcast a morning show over Armed Forces Radio during 1945.
Finishing his hitch in the military, Grandpa Jones headed back to Cincinnati, picking his career back up where he had left off. He recorded a number of gospel songs with Merle Travis and the Delmores under the name of The Brown's Ferry Four. He recorded other songs as well, most notably Eight More Miles to Louisville and East Bound Freight Train. Sales were good and he had drawn national attention and a fan base. The year 1946 saw Louis wed his beloved Ramona on October 14.
Fortune smiled on Grandpa Jones in 1947 when he got the call inviting him to be a member of the cast of the Grand Ole Opry. He made the move to Nashville with his new bride Ramona. Next year saw him record Old Rattler and Mountain Dew. He made the decision to turn more toward traditional bluegrass music and away from mainstream country.
Jones and wife Ramona left Nashville for a time at the influence of promoter Connie Gay. They worked at WARL radio in Arlington, Va and at WRVA radio in Richmond, Va. where he was headliner for the Old Dominion Barn Dance. This defection from Music City ended in 1952 when he and Ramona went back to Nashville and the Grand Ole Opry. He continued working, recording for various labels, and scored a Top 25 song with All American Boy. He struck out again with promoter Connie Gay, this time as host of a TV program, but returned once again to Nashville and the Opry.
In 1963 Grandpa Jones had his biggest hit, a cover of a Jimmie Rodgers song named T For Texas. The song powered its way to a Top 5 posting.
Fate came knocking in 1968 when CBS was casting their country fried comedy show Hee Haw. The show had a lengthy run (from 1969 until 1993), and Grandpa Jones was there for a great part of that time playing banjo. He also sang in the Hee Haw Gospel Quartet as well as a feature where he answered the eternal question "Hey Grandpa, what's for supper?"
Grandpa Jones was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1978.
He penned his autobiography in 1984 (along with Charles K. Wolfe), a work entitled Everyone's Grandpa.
In his more than 50 years with his wife Ramona they had 3 children. They had a son (Mark), and 2 daughters ( Alisa and Marsha). Marsha died before his own passing. He had another daughter named Eloise from an earlier marriage.
The career of Grandpa Jones spanned well over 70 years, including 46 years as a member of the Grand Ole Opry. He performed at the Opry on January 3, 1998 and was felled by a stroke later that evening. He passed away on February 19, 1998 while a patient at McKendree Village Home Health Center in Hermitage, Tennessee from stroke related complications. He was laid to rest following a memorial service held at his beloved Grand Old Opry. He is buried at Luton Memorial Methodist Church, Nashville, Tn.