Skeeter Davis, a veteran of the Grand Ole Opry, died yesterday (Sept. 19), at Nashville’s St. Thomas Hospital. She was 73. The artist, born Mary Frances Penick in Dry Ridge, Ky., had battled breast cancer since 1988.
After meeting Betty Jack Davis in high school, she adopted the name Skeeter Davis so the duo could perform as the Davis Sisters. Recording for RCA, they scored a hit with “I Forgot More Than You’ll Ever Know” in 1953, but faced tragedy when Betty Jack was killed in a car crash in August of that year. Betty Jack’s sister Georgie joined to carry on the group until 1956.
Davis scored her first solo hit in 1958 with the Chet Atkins-produced “Lost to a Geisha Girl,” which reached No. 15 on Billboard’s country singles chart. She joined the Opry in 1959, the same year she earned a Grammy nomination, the first of five in her career, for the song “Set Him Free.” The track reached No. 5 on the country tally.
Davis scored a huge crossover hit in 1962 with “The End of the World.” Beyond reaching No. 2 on the country chart, the track also hit No. 1 on Billboard’s adult contemporary tally, No. 2 on the Hot 100 and No. 4 on the R&B list.
Other country hits included “(I Can’t Help You) I’m Falling Too” (No. 2, 1960) and “Gonna Get Along Without You Now” (No. 8, 1964). She also recorded hits with Bobby Bare and George Hamilton IV and collaborated on an 1985 album with NRBQ, “She Sings, They Play.”
Davis married and divorced three times, first to Kenneth Depew, then to Ralph Emery, host of the television show “Nashville Now,” and later to NRBQ bassist Joey Spampinato.
Funeral services will be held Wednesday at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, home to the Grand Ole Opry from 1943 through 1974.