Originally created 09/23/04

Grand Ole Opry, America lose great singer



If you went to the Grand Ole Opry over the past 40 years, you likely heard Skeeter Davis sing her 1962 hit (Don't They Know It's) The End of The World.

There is no telling how many times I heard her perform that mournful ballad of lost love. Every time that she sang that song composed by Arthur Kent and Sylvia Dee, her heart-wrenching, emotional delivery always tore me up.

That's how I'll remember Ms. Davis, who died Sunday in Nashville, Tenn., of cancer at age 72.

She certainly was never boring. You might not have liked everything she had to say (some of her three husbands sure didn't, including Ralph Emery) or the rough way she looked sometimes.

Skeeter Davis - born Mary Frances Penick in Dry Ridge, Ky. - had been a recording star for nine years and an Opry member for three by the time End of the World hit.

She and Betty Jack Davis (a close high school friend) earlier had scored a duet hit as The Davis Sisters in 1953 with I Forgot More Than You'll Ever Know (About Him).

A few months after the single topped the charts, a soldier fell asleep at the wheel of his car Aug. 2, 1953, and hit the car carrying the Davis Sisters, killing Betty Jack and injuring Skeeter.

Ms. Davis would forge a solo career that found her in the mid 1950s on tour with a young guitarist-vocalist named Elvis Presley.

"I'd be walking backstage at our shows," Ms. Davis recalled earlier, "and Elvis would tell me to quit biting my nails."

Six years to the month after her car accident, Ms. Davis became a member of the Opry. It was Marty Robbins who recommended her to become an Opry member.

The Opry suspended her for 15 months in 1973 for using a live Opry radio broadcast to criticize the arrest of evangelists passing out literature at a mall in Nashville.

In the 1970s, she searched for the man who shot to death her grandfather in 1933, Jim Roberts, when she was 2. She found him on a farm suffering from cancer. He had served time in Indiana for the murder.

"After spending a few minutes with him, I felt like he was a friend," she later said. "He's paid his debt. I forgive him."

SHOWCASE IN ATLANTA: Augusta native Tiffany Clark will perform songs from her debut pop/rock CD, Trophy Girl, at 9 p.m. Friday at Andrews Upstairs nightclub at East Andrews Drive and Cains Hill Road in Buckhead.

Ms. Clark, 21, has performed for several years with the Atlanta Workshop Players and has been seen in several musicals in the Fox Theater. See the Web site tiffanyclark.com.

SOUTHERN BLUEGRASS: The first bluegrass festival at Stagger Lee Music Park, one mile off U.S. Highway 341 outside Baxley, Ga., will be held today through Sunday.

Performers include the Gary Waldrep Band (today and Friday) and The Larkins (Saturday and Sunday). Admission is $10 for all days except Saturday, which is $15. Call toll-free (866) 611-7446 or see the Web site www.staggerleemusicpark.com.

Don Rhodes has been writing about country music for 33 years. He can be reached at (706) 823-3214 or don.rhodes@morris.com.