Grand Old Opry Member Skeeter Davis Dies at 72

Photo Right: Davis Sisters 1953 >>

NASHVILLE, September 19, 2004 - Skeeter Davis, who hit the top of the pop charts with "The End of the World" in 1963 and sang on the Grand Ole Opry radio show for more than 40 years, died Sunday of cancer. She was 72. Skeeter Davis died at a Nashville hospice, said Grand Ole Opry publicist Jessie Schmidt. Davis had been diagnosed with breast cancer in 1988 and had a recurrence in 1996.

Mary Frances Penick was born on December 30, 1931 in the small Appalachian town of Dry Ridge, Kentucky. As a child, her grandfather nicknamed her "Skeeter" because she was always active and buzzing around like a mosquito. She got her start in music as part of the duo, The Davis Sisters, along with childhood friend, Betty Jack Davis. Thus, Skeeter Davis was born to the rest of the world.

Sadly, on August 23, 1953, Skeeter and Betty Jack were involved in a serious car accident in which Betty Jack died and Skeeter was critically injured. Skeeter returned to singing with Betty Jack's sister, Georgia Davis, to briefly resume the Davis Sisters' act. But, within a year, the duo broke up and Skeeter pursued a solo career.

She continued to record on the RCA label where she worked with Eddy Arnold and Elvis Presley. In 1955, she toured for RCA on the Caravan of the Stars. Davis teamed up with producer, Chet Atkins and scored her first solo country chart hit in 1958 with "Lost To A Geisha Girl."

In 1959, Davis achieved one of her greatest ambitions when she moved to Nashville and became a regular member of the Grand Ole Opry. In 1960, she married WSM personality, Ralph Emery, but the tumultuous marriage ended in 1964. During the 1960's, Davis was one of RCA's most successful country artists. She harvested 26 U.S. country hits, 12 of which crossed over to the U.S. pop charts. Among these was what was to become her trademark song, the million-selling record "The End Of The World" which peaked at number two in both the U.S. country and pop charts in 1963.

In 1967, Davis recorded a tribute album to Buddy Holly, which featured Waylon Jennings on the guitar. Later in 1972, she also did a tribute album to her friend, Dolly Parton. During the 70's her duets with Bobby Bare, George Hamilton IV, and The Bee Gees gave her a few more hits, but by the mid-70's, Davis was reaching the end of her illustrious career. She ended her twenty-two year relationship with RCA in 1974 and charted her last hit for Mercury in 1976 with "I Love Us."

In 1985, she re-recorded an old Davis Sisters' hit, "May You Never Be Alone," with the group NRBQ. She married Joey Spampanito of NRBQ, but this marriage ultimately ended in divorce as well. Davis has also taken to writing about her real life experiences. Her autobiography, "Bus Fare To Kentucky," was published in 1993. Skeeter Davis passed away September 19th 2004 after a long battle with cancer.

Excerpts from a biography by Sherry Anderson