Obituary: Lulu Belle Wiseman

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The Independent Culture
LULU BELLE Wiseman was one half of "The Sweethearts of Country Music". She and her husband Scotty were, during their heyday, perhaps the most popular husband-and-wife team within the genre, and were long- time stars of the influential Chicago-based WLS radio show National Barn Dance.

She was born Myrtle Eleanor Cooper in North Carolina in 1913 and was already performing professionally whilst still in her teens. In 1932 she auditioned for the National Barn Dance, gaining a solo spot and a new stage name of Lulu Belle.

National Barn Dance was by the Thirties the most widely listened-to hillbilly programme in the United States, with weekly audiences approaching 20 million. It was to prove a springboard to success for several notable figures, among them the bass-player Red Foley. He and Lulu Belle began to perform as a duo, known as Lulu Belle and Burrhead.

In 1934, Scotty Wiseman joined the Barn Dance cast. A proficient banjo and guitar picker, singer and songwriter, "Skyland Scotty" - so named because he was raised in Ashville, North Carolina, "Land of the Skies" - had begun to perform whilst studying to become a teacher. He and Lulu Belle hit it off immediately and, much to the delight of the station's managers, married in December that year (though some irate fans wrote in complaining that Scotty had stolen Red's girl).

The Wisemans' smooth style and sunny presence rapidly made them one of the show's biggest draws; a popularity they capitalised on with a series of low-budget movies including Hi, Neighbour (1940), Country Fair (1941) and, with Roy Rogers, Shine On Harvest Moon (1938).

They cut a series of classic records over the years for Vocalion, Okeh, Bluebird, Trutone, Mercury and Starday, many of them written and arranged by Scotty. In addition to hits such as "Remember Me", "Brown Mountain Light," "Whippoorwill Time" and "Does Your Spearmint Lose Its Flavor on the Bed Post Overnight", later successfully covered and adapted by Lonnie Donegan, two Scotty Wiseman tunes have become standards: "Mountain Dew", a reworking of a Bascombe Larnar Lunsford tune, and "Have I Told You Lately That I Love You", which has been covered numerous times, notably by Bing Crosby and Jim Reeves.

For eight years from 1949, Lulu Belle and Scotty hosted their own daily television programme on the Chicago station WNBQ. In 1958 they surprised their fans by virtually quitting music and moving back to North Carolina. Although three albums were cut for Starday, The Sweethearts of Country Music (1963), Down Memory Lane (1964) and Sweethearts Still (1965), their performing days were all but over. He began to teach whilst she became involved in local politics, eventually serving in the state legislature. Scotty Wiseman died following a heart attack in 1981; Lulu Belle remarried and in 1986 cut an album, Snickers and Tender Memories.

Myrtle Eleanor (Lulu Belle) Cooper, singer: born Boone, North Carolina 24 December 1913; married 1934 Scotty Wiseman (died 1981), 1983 Ernest Stamey; died 8 February 1999.