Thursday, December 30, 2010

Skeeter Davis

I did not want today to pass without taking a moment to remember Skeeter Davis, who was born on December 30, 1931. To say that Skeeter had a difficult life would be an understatement. Her given name was Mary Francis Penick, and she was born and raised in Kentucky. She received the nickname of Skeeter early in her life, from her grandfather. As far as the last name of Davis, that came from her duet partner, Billy Jack Davis, and together they performed as the Davis Sisters. In 1953, they achieved a #1 record, with the hit, "I Forgot More Than You'll Ever Know". It was in August of 1953 that Skeeter and Billy Jack were involved in a serious car accident that took the life of Billy Jack and severly injured Skeeter.

In 1956, Skeeter started to record as a single act, under Chet Atkins at RCA Records. She charted a number of hits over the next several years, culminating in the #1 song, "The End of the World", which would become Skeeter's most famous song. The hits would continue through the rest of the 1960's.

She would join the Grand Ole Opry in August 1959. Her Opry career was not without some controversy. In 1973, she dedicated a song to evangelists who were outside and being harassed by the Nashville police. For that, and other political and religious statements that she made at the Opry, she was suspended from the show in 1974. Over a year later, she was reinstated.

Skeeter at one time was married to Ralph Emery, and in books written by both Skeeter and Ralph, they each gave their side to what was not a very good marriage. I think Ralph got the best line of the two, when in his book, "Memories", he wrote, "I thought about including a chapter here, with a headline reading, 'Things I Enjoyed About My Marriage to Skeeter Davis'. I was going to leave the pages blank. No one would have been hurt by the text, and the idea seemed clever".

Skeeter battled a lot of health issues during the last decade of her life, including breast cancer. She was a survivor and would continue to play the Opry as the cancer spread to her bones. She was famous for wearing colorful, full length skirts with usually a head band, or cover.

She would remain a member of the Opry until her death on September 19, 2004. As she battled cancer and she became weaker, she was forced to give up her Opry appearances. In 2000, she appeared on the show 63 times, but that would drop in 2001 to just 4. Her last Opry appearances were on Saturday night, February 3, 2001, when she appeared on both of the Saturday night shows.

In honor of Skeeter Davis, who would have turned 79 today, here is the Opry line-up from Saturday February 3, 2001.

6:30: Porter Wagoner(host); The Whites; Bill Carlisle; Jim & Jesse; Jack Greene
7:00: Jean Shepard(host); Wilkinsons; Billy Walker; Hal Ketchum; Peasall Sisters; Alison Krauss & Union Station; Emmylou Harris
8:00: Jeannie Seely(host); Skeeter Davis; Mike Snider; Holly Dunn; Opry Squaredance Band/Melvin Sloan Dancers
8:30: Jimmy Dickens(host); Wilma Lee Cooper; Del Reeves; Vince Gill

9:30: Porter Wagoner(host); The Whites; Skeeter Davis; Peasall Sisters; Vince Gill
10:00: Jimmy Dickens(host); Wilma Lee Cooper; Billy Walker; Alison Krauss & Union Station
10:30: Jimmy C. Newman(host); Osborne Brothers; Wilkinsons; Opry Squaredance Band/Melvin Sloan Dancers
11:00: Jeannie Seely(host); Stonewall Jackson; Mike Snider; Emmylou Harris
11:30: George Hamilton IV(host); Charlie Walker; Hal Ketchum

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