Molly O'Day (singer)
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|Birth name||Lois LaVerne Williamson|
|Also known as||Dixie Lee, Mountain Fern|
|Born||July 9, 1923
Pike County, Kentucky, U.S.
|Died||5 December 1987
Huntington, West Virginia, U.S.
|Years active||1940 – 1951|
Lois LaVerne Williamson was born on a farm in Pike County, Kentucky to Joseph and Hester Williamson. Her father supported the family as a coalminer. Neither of her parents played music but Lois got together with her two brothers, Cecil and Joe, to practice singing and playing. Lois and her two brothers, who called themselves Skeets and Duke, began performing at local dances.
In 1939, Skeets was hired to perform in a radio band: Ervin Staggs and His Radio Ramblers at WCHS, Charleston, West Virginia. One of the more famous members of the group was Johnnie Bailes. That same year Molly also joined the Radio Ramblers as a vocalist under the pseudonym Mountain Fern. She worked with a banjoist called Murphy McClees and changed her name to Dixie Lee. Within a couple of months, she and her two brothers quit and moved to Williamson, West Virginia, to perform at a local radio station. In 1940 Lois and her two brothers moved to Beckley, West Virginia, to join the Happy Valley Boys led by Johnnie Bailes. The band didn't make much money so it disintegrated in the fall of 1940.
Lois applied for the position as a vocalist in the band Lynn Davis and His Forty-Niners, who had performed on WHIS in Bluefield, West Virginia for the past four years. A few months later, on April 5, 1941, Lynn Davis and Lois Williamson were married. The Forty-Niners appeared on several locations in the southeast and during one gig in Birmingham, Alabama, Hank Williams performed with the group. In 1941 Lois changed her name to Molly O'Day as there was already a singer named Dixie Lee. In 1945, Lynn decided to change the band's name to the Cumberland Mountain Folks.
The new band became a hot act. In 1946, the head of Acuff-Rose, Fred Rose heard Molly sing "Tramp on the Street", a Grady Cole song she learned from Williams. Rose almost immediately arranged a recording contract with Columbia Records. Molly O'Day & The Cumberland Mountain Folks made their first recordings on December 16, 1946. On these first recordings, bluegrass legend Mac Wiseman appeared on bass. During her first years as a recording artist Molly O'Day's popularity increased but she started to have doubts about her life's choice. By 1951 she had made her last recording session for Columbia Records.
Although O'Day recorded albums for Bob Mooney's Rem label (later reissued on Starday) and GRS Records in the 1960s, she preferred to sing in churches and do evangelistic work. Both the Smithsonian Institution and Ralph Stanley tried without success to get her back onstage. In February 1974, Molly and Lynn started a program on a Christian radio station in Huntington, West Virginia featuring gospel recordings.
In the 1980s her health began to deteriorate after she was diagnosed with cancer. She died on December 5, 1987, aged 64, at the Cabell Huntington Hospital in Huntington, West Virginia. She was survived by her husband.
- "Molly O'Day". West Virginia Music Hall of Fame. Retrieved 30 October 2015.
- Ivan M.Tribe, Liner Notes, Booklet, Bear Family Records.