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EDWARDS, FRENCHY (1929-1997)

Frenchy "Stoney" Edwards, a country music star in the 1970s, stylized his music in the vein of Lefty Frizzell and Merle Haggard. Like Charlie Pride and O. B. McClinton, Edwards and fellow Oklahoman Big Al Downing succeeded as African Americans in the predominantly white country music industry. One of seven siblings born in Seminole, Oklahoma, in 1954 Edwards married and moved to San Francisco. Working at one of the many jobs he held before his singing career, he broke his back, which led him to focus on music.

In 1971 Edwards signed with Capitol records and released his first album. Asleep at the Wheel backed him at the beginning of his career. He had fifteen chart singles for Capitol, including two Top Twenty hits, "She's My Rock" and "Mississippi You're on my Mind." His song "Blackbird (Hold Your Head High)" caused some controversy and banishment from a few radio stations. After he made five albums, the company dropped him in 1977. He recorded for smaller labels after that.

In the early 1980s Edwards lost part of a leg in a hunting accident and had open heart surgery, which caused his retirement. In 1991 he returned to music, cutting the album, Just for Old Time's Sake. This acclaimed album, produced by Billy Joe Kirk, featured many top session musicians including Johnny Gimble, Floyd Domino, Leon Rausch, and Ray Benson. Stoney Edwards died of stomach cancer in April 1997.

SEE ALSO: AFRICAN AMERICANS, COUNTRY MUSIC, WESTERN SWING.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Colin Larkin, ed., The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (3rd ed; London: Muze Limited, 1998). Bill Malone and Judith McCulloh, Stars of Country Music: Uncle Dave Macon to Johnny Rodriguez (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1975).

Larry O'Dell

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