Lonesome Onry and Mean: Stoney Edwards, Another Lost African-American Country Singer

In our previous story regarding black artists who took the country music route, we omitted a huge talent who, though he never achieved Charley Pride's level of commercial success, was a respected artist among those in the know in Nashville.

Stoney Edwards was a farm boy from Oklahoma who eventually moved to California when federal agents cracked down on his family's moonshine operation. After working odd jobs and spending two years recuperating from carbon dioxide poisoning suffered when he was accidentally locked in a tank car he was cleaning, he was snapped up by Capitol Records as an answer to RCA's Pride, whose startling success indicated that the country music audience would accept a black performer.

Edwards was discovered by lawyer Ray Sweeney at a Bob Wills benefit show in 1970, and Sweeney convinced Capitol to sign Edwards. They immediately released Edwards' "Two Dollar Toy," which became a minor hit.

Edwards struck real paydirt with "She's The Rock That I Lean On," which moved into the Billboard Top 20 and was later covered by George Jones. Edwards' cover of Jesse Winchester's "Mississippi You're On My Mind" also entered the Top 20 in 1975, and he had a minor hit with his honky tonk song, "Hank and Lefty Raised My Country Soul."

As a response to a racial epithet thrown at him by his hero Lefty Frizzell, Edwards wrote and recorded "Blackbird (Hold Your Head High)" in 1976. The ensuing controversy effectively stalled his career and he parted ways with Capitol. Edwards would go on to record for several small labels until the early '80s, when health issues required that he give up the music business.

Edwards returned to his family farm outside Seminole, Oklahoma, and died of stomach cancer in 1997. The following year, the Razor and Tie label issued Poor Folks Stick Together: The Best of Stoney Edwards.

Come back soon when LOM covers another great black country music artist, Al Downing.


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