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Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper

The traditional sounds of the southern Appalachian mountains were echoed in the music of Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper. In 1950, the Coopers and their band, the Clinch Mountain Clan, were named "the most authentic mountain singing group in the United States" by the music library of Harvard University.

Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper were born to sing traditional country music. Raised on a farm in Clinch County, WV, Stoney learned to play mountain music and Elizabethan ballads on the fiddle as a child. At the age of 12, he taught himself to play guitar and joined a traditional country band, the Green Valley Boys. Wilma Lee grew up singing with a family band, the Leary Family, that was one of the top-ranked Southern gospel groups. Her debut public performance came at the age of five. In 1938, she sang with the Leary Family at a national folk festival sponsored by Eleanor Roosevelt.

Stoney and Wilma Lee first performed together in the late '30s, when Stoney was hired by the Leary Family to play fiddle for ten dollars a week. Married in 1941, the Coopers performed as a duo, the Musical Partners, while still touring with the Learys. After leaving the group, they performed on the Virginia and West Virginia circuit until Wilma Lee gave birth to their first child, Carol Lee, and Stoney took a job for a beverage distributor to supplement their musical income. In the early '40s, the couple was heard often on radio stations in Nebraska, Indiana, Illinois, Arkansas, and North Carolina. Moving to Chicago, Stoney worked for a defense plant in Gary, IN.

The Coopers' musical career began to take off shortly after returning to West Virginia in 1947 and becoming cast members of The Wheeling Jamboree. They remained with the show for a decade, broadcasting every Saturday night over the CBS radio network. In 1957, they left the show, moved to Nashville, and became members of the Grand Ole Opry. They released the first of three Top Ten country hits, "Come Walk with Me," two years later. "There's a Big Wheel" and "Big Midnight Special" followed the same year. In the '60s and early '70s, the Coopers appeared on numerous television shows in the United States and Canada and in the movies Country Music on Broadway and W.W. and the Dixie Dance Kings. They remained active with the Grand Ole Opry until the mid-'70s, when poor health forced Stoney's retirement. The Coopers' last recording together was Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper Sing the Carter Family's Greatest Hits.

Following Stoney's retirement, Wilma Lee, who holds a bachelor's degree in banking from Davis and Elkins College in Elkins, WV, continued to perform and record on her own. A few days before Stoney's death in 1977, she dedicated a performance of the Carter Family's "Little Darling Pal of Mine" to him during an appearance on the Grand Ole Opry. The Smithsonian Institute honored her as "the first lady of bluegrass" at their annual folk festival in 1974. Wilma Lee's own performing days ended when she had a stroke while playing on the Grand Ole Opry stage in 2001, although she recovered sufficiently to appear at the Opry later as a non-performer and offer greetings and thank-yous to fans. Many of Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper's songs, including "Sunny Side of the Mountain," "The West Virginia Polka," "Thirty Pieces of Silver," "Wreck on the Highway," and "Legend of the Dogwood Tree," have gone on to become staples of country and bluegrass repertoires. ~ Craig Harris
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Country Moods & Memories

1. My Exclusive Dreams

2. Carolyn

3. Walking Dream

4. Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain

5. Johnny, My Love (Grandma's Diary)

6. Things To Remember

7. Sweet Memories

8. Yesterday Just Passed My Way Again

9. Five Miles From Home (Soon I'll See Mary)

10. Ashes Of Love

11. Summer (The First Time)

12. Tell Me I'm Only Dreaming

13. Have I Got Some Blues For You

14. Sing Me Back Home

15. Am I That Easy To Forget

x

Track List: Goodbye, Babylon

Disc 1

3. Woke Up This Morning (With My Mind On Jesus)

4. Present Joys

5. All I Want Is That Pure Religion

6. Satisfied

7. As The Life Of A Flower

8. Thou Carest Lord, For Me

9. Lift Him Up That's All

10. Rock My Soul

12. Crucifixion

13. Crying Holy Unto The Lord

14. I'll Never Go Back

15. God's Gonna Separate The Wheat From The Tares

16. Blessed Are The Poor In Spirit

17. I Belong To The Band - Hallelujah!

18. River Of Jordan

19. Sow Good Seeds

20. I'll Be Satisfied

21. Troubled 'bout My Soul

22. Dry Bones

23. Jesus My All

24. Creep Along, Moses

26. He Gave Me A Heart To Love

27. O Day

Disc 2

1. There Ain't No Grave Gonna Hold My Body Down

3. The Bible's Right

4. Standing In The Need Of Prayer

6. How About You?

7. Jesus Is A Mighty Good Leader

8. Murillo's Lesson

9. Glory, Glory, Glory, Glory To The Lamb

10. Come Over Here

11. I'm Gonna Cross The River Of Jordan

12. Milky White Way

13. Deliverance Will Come

14. Daniel In The Den Of Lions

16. No More, My Lord

17. This World Can't Stand Long

18. God's Getting Worried

19. Get Right Church

20. Move, Members, Move

21. Lover Of The Lord

23. On My Way To Heaven

24. The Bible's True

25. Ship Of Glory

28. When The Saints Go Marching In

Disc 3

1. Down On The Old Camp Ground

2. My Lord's Gonna Move This Wicked Race

4. Ain't Gonna Lay My Armor Down

5. I'll Fly Away

6. Heavenly Vision

7. Lord, I Just Can't Keep From Crying

8. Lower My Dying Head

9. You've Got To Move

11. Golden Gate Gospel Train

12. I'll Be Rested (When The Roll Is Called)

13. Down On Me

14. Goin' To Rest Where Jesus Is

15. Got Heaven In My View

16. Judgment

17. I Want Two Wings To Veil My Face

18. We Got The Same Kinda Power Over Here

19. What Are They Doing In Heaven Today

20. That Great Day

21. I'm Bound For Home

22. I Am In The Heavenly Way

23. Over In The Glory Land

24. Death In The Morning

25. In The Land Where We'll Never Grow Old

26. Bathe In That Beautiful Pool

Disc 4

1. Walking My Lord Up Calvary Hill

2. Christ Arose

3. If You See My Savior

4. Let Jesus Lead You

5. Found A Wonderful Savior

6. He Is My Story

7. I Remember Calvary

8. Take Your Burden To The Lord And Leave It There

10. Hide Me In The Blood Of Jesus

12. Standing On The Promises

13. Jesus Is My Air-O-Plane

15. I Mean To Live For Jesus

16. When Was Jesus Born?

17. Come To The Savior

18. I Want Jesus To Walk With Me

19. He's Coming Soon

20. Return Again

21. I Am The True Vine

22. Sweet Story Of Old

23. I'll Lead A Christian Life

24. I'm Leaning On The Lord

25. Where He Leads Me I Will Follow

26. Jesus Is Getting Us Ready For The Great Day

Disc 5

3. Hallelujah To The Lamb

4. You Need Jesus On Your Side

5. You'd Better Mind

8. Keep On The Firing Line

9. Romans Ten And Nine

10. Standing Outside

11. Sinner You Better Get Ready

12. I Got To Cross The River Of Jordan

13. Free At Last

14. The Whole World In His Hand

15. Amazing Grace

16. Honey In The Rock

17. On Jordan's Stormy Banks We Stand

20. Primrose Hill

21. Keep On The Sunny Side

23. When The Saints Go Marching In

24. We Are Almost Down To The Shore

25. Strange Things Happening Every Day

Disc 6

1. Gettin' Ready For Christmas Day

4. The Downfall Of Nebuchadnezzar

5. The Liar

8. If I Have A Ticket Lord Can I Ride

9. You Must Be Born Again

11. Oh, Lord Remember Me

12. Christ, The Teacher

13. King Of Kings

14. O Lord I'm Your Child

15. Moses Was Rescued By A Negro Woman

16. That White Mule Of Sin

21. The Gambler's Doom

23. God Is Mad With Man

x

Track List: Top Country Hits Of The '50s

1. No Help Wanted

2. Once More

3. Poor Old Heartsick Me

4. Who Cares For Me

5. Wishful Thinking

6. There's A Big Wheel

8. Look Who's Blue

9. Knothole

10. Give Myself A Party

11. Come Walk With Me

12. Too Old To Cut The Mustard

14. Big Midnight Special

15. A Church A Courtroom And Then Goodbye

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