Skeeter Davis

Country diva who sang 'The End of the World'

For nearly 40 years a star of Nashville's
Grand Ole Opry, Skeeter Davis was one of the most popular country divas of her generation. Her voice may have lacked the emotional depth of Patsy Cline or the honky-tonk edge of Jean Shepard, but she nevertheless enjoyed a string of hits, most notably "The End of the World" in 1963.



Mary Frances Penick (Skeeter Davis), singer: born Dry Ridge, Kentucky 30 December 1931; married first Kenneth Depew (marriage dissolved), second 1960 Ralph Emery (marriage dissolved 1964), third 1987 Joey Spampinato (marriage dissolved 1996); died Nashville, Tennessee 19 September 2004.



For nearly 40 years a star of Nashville's Grand Ole Opry, Skeeter Davis was one of the most popular country divas of her generation. Her voice may have lacked the emotional depth of Patsy Cline or the honky-tonk edge of Jean Shepard, but she nevertheless enjoyed a string of hits, most notably "The End of the World" in 1963.

Written by Sylvia Dee and Arthur Kent and produced by Anita Kerr, "The End of the World" featured a highly effective, and in Davis's case typical, double tracking of the vocal part, a possible legacy of her work with her former duet partner Betty Jack Davis. It proved a high point not only of Skeeter Davis's own career, crossing over into both the United States and British pop charts, but also of the famed "Nashville Sound".

Skeeter Davis was born Mary Frances Penick, in Kentucky, in 1931. Her nickname - given to her by a grandfather because she was always buzzing about - derived from the local slang for mosquito. The eldest of seven children, she was exposed to music from an early age and would later cite the legendary Carter Family as a formative influence.

Whilst still at high school Skeeter Penick formed a musical partnership with a friend, Betty Jack Davis, and, as the Davis Sisters, they became a fixture of Lexington's WLAX radio station. Appearances in Detroit, in Cincinnati and on the Wheeling Jamboree in West Virginia followed and in 1952 they landed a recording contract with Fortune Records. Little came of it, however, and in 1953 they signed to RCA; their first cut for the label, "I Forgot More Than You'll Ever Know", went on to top the country charts.

In August that year, en route to a gig in Cincinnati, a car accident robbed Betty Jack of her life and Skeeter of much of her confidence. Attempts to sustain the duo's momentum with the help of Betty Jack's sister Georgie faltered and it would be several years before Skeeter returned to the recording studio.

Now a solo performer, in 1958 Skeeter Davis charted with "Lost to a Geisha Girl", breaking back into the Top Ten the following year with "Set Him Free". Her subsequent hits included "My Last Date (With You)" (1961) which she co-wrote with Boudleaux Bryant and the pianist Floyd Cramer, "Gonna Get Along Without You Now" (1964), the Grammy-nominated "Sun Glasses" (1965), "What Does It Take" (1967, written by Jim Glaser), "I'm a Lover Not a Fighter" (1969) and "Bus Fare to Kentucky" (1971) - later the title of her autobiography.

Despite strongly held religious beliefs which led her to refuse to perform at venues which sold alcohol, Skeeter Davis's private life was at times tempestuous. Her three marriages did not last and the second, to the Nashville broadcasting personality Ralph Emery, was bitterly recounted by both parties in their respective autobiographies. Her third husband Joey Spampinato was bass-player with the group NRBQ.

Skeeter Davis joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1959 and remained a popular member of its cast for the rest of her life.

Paul Wadey

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Oliver
filmTV chef Jamie Oliver turned down role in The Hobbit
News
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
peopleDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
tvReview: Top Gear team flee Patagonia as Christmas special reaches its climax in the style of Butch and Sundance
News
people
Sport
Ashley Barnes of Burnley scores their second goal
footballMan City vs Burnley match report
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca alongside Harrison Ford's Han Solo in 'Star Wars'
film
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Man of action: Christian Bale stars in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracy Emin's 1998 piece 'My Bed' on display at Christie's
artOne expert claims she did not
News
Ernesto Che Guevara and Fidel Castro, right, met at Havana Golf Club in 1962 to mock the game
newsFidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
News
Hackers revealed Oscar-winning actress Lawrence was paid less than her male co-stars in American Hustle
people
Arts and Entertainment
Clueless? Locked-door mysteries are the ultimate manifestation of the cerebral detective story
booksAs a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Sport
Robin van Persie is blocked by Hugo Lloris
footballTottenham vs Manchester United match report
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Manager

£32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Manager is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?