MARY FRANCES PENICK (December 30, 1931 – September 19, 2004), known as SKEETER DAVIS, was an American country music singer who sang crossover pop music songs including 1962's "The End of the World ". She started out as part of the Davis Sisters as a teenager in the late 1940s, eventually landing on RCA Victor . In the late 1950s, she became a solo star.
One of the first women to achieve major stardom in the country music
field as a solo vocalist, she was an acknowledged influence on Tammy
Dolly Parton and was hailed as an "extraordinary
country/pop singer" by
The New York Times
* 1 Biography
* 1.1 Early life * 1.2 Rise to fame * 1.3 1960s * 1.4 1970s * 1.5 Personal life * 1.6 Later years and death * 1.7 Reviews
* 2 Discography * 3 Footnotes * 4 External links
Davis was the first of seven children born to William Lee and Sarah Rachel Roberts Penick, in Dry Ridge, Kentucky . Because her grandfather thought that she had a lot of energy for a young child, he nicknamed Mary Frances "Skeeter" (slang for mosquito ). The Penick family moved to Erlanger, Kentucky in 1947, where Skeeter met Betty Jack Davis at Dixie Heights High School , becoming instant friends. They sang together through much of high school, and at Decoursey Baptist Church. They formed the duet known as the Davis Sisters (although they were unrelated), and started singing on Detroit radio station WJR 's program Barnyard Frolics. Eventually, the duo were signed by RCA Victor in 1951. Earlier demo recordings were eventually released on Fortune Records .
RISE TO FAME
RCA Victor producer Steve Sholes liked the Davis Sisters' harmonies and offered the duo a recording contract in 1953. Their most successful release was "I Forgot More Than You\'ll Ever Know ", which spent eight weeks at No. 1 on the country charts in 1953, as well as making the Top 20 on the pop charts. The record ranks No. 65 on the Top 100 Country Singles of All Time, according to Billboard historian Joel Whitburn .
While "I Forgot More Than You'll Ever Know" was climbing the charts, the Davis Sisters were involved in a major car accident on August 1, 1953. The crash killed Betty Jack Davis and left Skeeter with severe injuries. After the accident, Skeeter and Betty Jack's sister, Georgia, continued as the Davis Sisters. Skeeter decided to retire from the music industry in 1956, and get married, ending the duet.
Davis decided to go back into country music as a solo act in 1958. She began touring with Ernest Tubb and she returned to RCA Victor, this time working with guitarist and record producer Chet Atkins . That year, Davis recorded " Lost to a Geisha Girl ", an answer song to Hank Locklin 's hit "Geisha Girl", which reached the country Top 15 and became her first solo hit. Atkins worked with Davis as a guitarist on all of these sessions. At Davis' suggestion, Atkins frequently multi-tracked Davis' voice for harmony vocals to resemble the sound of the Davis Sisters. This echo can be found on several of her early solo hits, such as " Am I That Easy to Forget ".
Davis had a Top 5 country hit, " Set Him Free ", in 1959, as well as another Top 20 hit called " Homebreaker ". She also joined the Grand Ole Opry that year, and was nominated for a Grammy Award for "Set Him Free", becoming the first female country singer to be nominated for a Grammy.
From 1960 to 1962, Davis had top ten hits with the songs "(I Can\'t
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; however, it did top the adult
contemporary charts. The record was also a surprise top five hit on
the rhythm and blues charts, making Davis one of the very few
Caucasian female singers to have a top ten 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' signature song. Davis
achieved one other country-pop hit with the
Gerry Goffin and Carole
King -penned "I Can\'t Stay Mad at You ", which peaked at No. 7 on the
pop charts and No. 2 on the Easy Listening chart in 1963. She made
several appearances on the pop music show
Another big 1963 hit was I\'m Saving My Love , written by Alex Zanetis.
Davis received five
Grammy Award nominations, including four for Best
Female Country Vocal Performance : 1964 ("He Says the Same Things to
Me "), 1964; ("Sun Glasses "), 1965; ("What Does It Take"), 1967, and
One Tin Soldier ", 1972. Davis was also an accomplished songwriter,
penning almost 70 songs and earning two BMI awards for "Set Him Free"
and "My Last Date With You", the latter also recorded by
Pat Boone ,
Kay Starr ,
Joni James , and several others in addition to
Davis' original hit version. Deborah Harry recorded a remake of Davis'
version in 1993 featuring
Davis' success continued with "I\'m Saving My Love " and 1964's Gonna
Get Along Without You Now , an updated cover a 1956 hit by Patience
and Prudence ). Both made the Top 10 on the country charts and cracked
the Billboard Top 50 pop charts, though the success of "Gonna Get" was
likely hampered by another remake of the song by vocalist Tracey Dey
simultaneously climbing the charts to peak slightly lower than Davis'
version. Later pop efforts, like "Let Me Get Close to You" in July
1964, missed making the
Billboard Hot 100 , reflecting the changing
nature of pop styles due to the ongoing
In 1965, she recorded a duet with
Bobby Bare called "A Dear John
Letter ", which just missed the country Top 10 and received light pop
action. (The best-known version of the song had been recorded
Jean Shepard and
Davis, c. 1965
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. "One Tin Soldier"
did not get much attention from country radio but was nominated for a
Grammy as Best Female Country Vocal. The record was a major success in
Canada, however, peaking at No. 2 on their easy listening chart and
No. 4 country. Her last major hit was 1973's "I Can't Believe That
It's All Over" which peaked at #12 in country and #101 on the pop
chart. In the 1970s, she began regularly touring foreign countries
Davis had the first and only controversy of her career when during a
Grand Ole Opry
Davis returned to the recording studio in 1976 with a brief stint on Mercury Records which produced two single releases, including her last song to make the national charts, 1976's "I Love Us". In 1978, she recorded the first of several albums for minor record labels which she would do on occasion into the 1990s.
Davis was married three times. Her first husband was Kenneth Depew. In 1960 she married WSM disc