Make Music While You Can
Born in rural Daviess County, Indiana, on January 28, 1924, Ramona Riggins is best known as the wife of the late Grandpa Jones. But by the time World War II ended and she became his second spouse, Ramona was a well-established country music trooper, adept on fiddle, mandolin, and vocals.
In fact, she left high school early to join Sunshine Sue Workman’s band on WRVA in Richmond, Virginia. She went on to follow the endless road of a mid-level entertainer, moving from town to town, touring Korea and Europe, moving in and out of Nashville, and, by the 1970s, operating the Grandpa Jones Dinner Theater in Stone County, Arkansas.
Descriptions of her childhood are well-crafted and filled with telling detail. Jones’ professional career, despite the book’s title, is less revealing; she prefers to acknowledge friends rather than tell stories at any length.
Her reticence is congruent with the portrait she crafts of herself as a young girl, but makes for unfulfilling autobiography. Though it is clearly her story, Grandpa Jones is hardly mentioned; their courtship and wedding take place in a matter of sentences. One gets the sense it was a hard life, at times, raising children while one’s husband is on the road performing, simultaneously trying to sustain one’s own musical career. But she lets little of that slip loose.
Make Music While You Can does offer a nice collection of family photos and a discography of Ramona’s work. Despite its shortcomings, it is a more than useful glimpse of the real world life of a country music star’s family.