SKEETER DAVIS

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Dry Ridge, Kentucky is where I live.   (JUST A GOOD OLD COUNTRY BOY)

Davis was born Mary Frances Penick on December 30, 1931, the first of seven children born to farmer William Lee and Sarah Rachel Penick (née Roberts), in Dry Ridge, Kentucky. Because her grandfather thought she had a lot of energy for a young child, he nicknamed Mary Frances “Skeeter” (slang for )  When Davis was a toddler, her great-uncle was convicted of murdering her maternal grandfather in Indiana. After this incident, Davis recalled that her mother became a “bitterly depressed woman.” Throughout her childhood, Davis’s mother attempted suicid multiple times, several of which Davis herself prevented from being carried out: “I once slapped a bottle of Clorox she was drinking out of her mouth and sat on her hands to keep her from reaching for a butcher knife,” she recalled. On one occasion, her mother attempted to leap from the family’s apartment window with Davis and her infant brother in her arms. Her relationship with her mother remained strained throughout much of her life, and by Davis’s account, she “couldn’t seem to win my mother’s respect and affection, [so] I turned my attention toward my daddy.”

Davis in a school photo, at the age of ten.

In the mid-1930s, the Penick family relocated to Cincinnati , Ohio, where they remained for several years before returning to Dry Ridge. They later moved to Erlanger, Kentucky in 1947. Davis was raised a Protestant, attending Disciples Of Crist churches. As an adolescent, Davis was inspired by the music of BettyHutton, and also developed interest in musicals, memorizing songs from films such as Stage Door Canteen (1943) and I”LL Be Seeing You (1944). She would sometimes stage routines in her backyard, dancing, singing, and telling ghost stories to neighborhood children. When Davis was in seventh grade, her father relocated to Oke Ridge Tn.for work. She and her siblings in the care of their mother who, during this time, became an alcoholic In the summer of 1948, Davis and her family relocated to Covington, Kentucky , where her father was working as an electrician, and moved into a house owned by the Villa Madonna Academy, run by Benedictine nuns. Davis became fascinated by the sisters, and for a time considered becoming a nun.

On August 1, 1953, the Davis Sisters performed on the , the two left Wheeling en route back to Covington. Around 7:00 am on August 2, near Cincinnati, a passing motorist fell asleep at the wheel, crashing head-on with the car in which Skeeter and Betty Jack Davis were riding. Betty Jack was killed in the collision, while Skeeter sustained serious head injuries. The driver of the car also survived. Newspaper bulletins at the time erroneously reported that both the Davis Sisters had been pronounced dead at Our Lady of Sorrow Hospital in Cincinnati.

Following the accident, Davis moved in with Betty Jack’s mother, Ollie, while recovering from her injuries. She recounted in her autobiography that Ollie “took advantage of this tragic situation to suit her own ends,” alleging that she had kept Skeeter sedated with drugs administered from a local dentist and sequestered her in the house, where she repeatedly played the girls’ records. Once Skeeter recovered, Ollie could “hardly wait for her chance to re-create the Davis Sisters,” suggesting that Betty Jack’s younger sister, Georgia, take her place in the singing duo. Davis reluctantly agreed, and six months after the accident, she resumed singing in the duo with Georgia Davis.

In 1956, Davis met Kenneth DePew, a railroad worker and acquaintance of Georgia. The two began dating and married shortly after, though Davis would later state that he had married her for her income: “He saw the nice new furniture my money had bought the Davises; he saw the Oldsmobile and knew I had money in the bank. I could be a short cut to easy street.” According to Davis, their marriage was not consummated until eight days into their honeymoon. Shortly after her marriage, the Davis Sisters formally disbanded.

She subsequently co-wrote and recorded another top-20 hit called “Homebreaker,

In 1963, Davis achieved her biggest success with country pop crossover hit “The End of the World”.” The song just missed topping the country and pop charts that year charts. The record was also a surprise top-five hit on the rhythm and blues charts, making Davis one of the few white female singers to have a top-10 hit in that market. The single sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc “The End of the World” soon became Davis’s signature song.

 

In the late 1960s, she recorded several full-length albums, including two tribute works: Skeeter Davis Sings Buddy Holl, (1967) and I Love Flatt and Scruggs(1968). Davis’s recording of the anti-war song “One Tin Soldier”, released in 1972, earned her an appearance on The Midnight Special, The single was a major success in Canada, peaking as a top-ten hit on RPM country and adult contemporary charts.

In 1970, Davis had another top-10 hit with “I;m a Lover (not a fighter)” and another duet with Bobby Bare with “Your Husband, My Wife”. The following year, she had a hit with the autobiographical “Bus Fare To Kentucky”. Subsequently, however, her chart success began to fade. Singles such as “It’s Hard to Be a Woman” and “Love Takes a Lot of My Time” failed to crack the country top 40. Her last major hit was 1973’s “I Can’t Believe That It’s All Over”, which peaked at number 12 in country and number 101 on the pop chart. In the 1970s, she began regularly touring foreign countries such as Barbados,Singapore, andSweden, where she retained a following.

Davis had the first and only controversy of her career when during a 1973 Grand Ole Opry performance, she dedicated a gospel song to a group of young church workers whom she noted in her introduction had been arrested for evangelizing at a local mall. The Opry suspended her from membership after receiving complaints from some local policemen. She was reinstated at the Opry more than a year later After losing several bookings during that period, Davis became active singing with a number of religious ministries and spent an extensive period evangelizing in Africa.

 

Death

In 2001, Davis became incapacitated by her breast cancer, which had metastasized. The following year, she made her final performance at the Grand Ole Opry, performing “The End of the World.” She died of breast cancer in a hospice on September 19, 2004, aged 72. In Nashville Tn.

 

LegacyDavis’s song “THE END OF THE WORLD” has been named as a major influence on several artists: Among them are Lou Reed and 21st-century singer-songwriter Lana Del R, both of whom named it among their favorite recordings of all time.Bob Dylan anlso recorded a version of “I Forgot More Than You’ll Ever Know” featuring the Davis Sisters’ arrangements on his 1970 album Self Portr.

Davis penned nearly 70 songs over the course of her career, and earned two BMI awards: for “Set Him Free” and “My Last Date With You”, the latter also recorded by Ann-Margret, Pat Boone,Kay Starr,Joni James, and several others, in addition to Davis’ original hit version. Deboreh Harry recorded a remake of Davis’ version in 1993 featuring Michael Stipe, a long-time Davis fan.  wrote new lyrics for the instrumental in 1972 as “Lost Her Love (On Our Last Date), which reached number one on the country chart, as did Emmylou Harris” remake of Twitty’s version in 1983 retitled “Lost His Love (On Our Last Date)”.)

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