Skeeter Davis, a Grammy-nominated singer and veteran of the Grand Ole Opry, died on Sept. 19 after a long battle with breast cancer. She was 73.
Born Mary Frances Penick in Dry Ridge, Ky., she adopted the name Skeeter Davis in high school after a fateful meeting with Betty Jack Davis. The girls formed an act called “The Davis Sisters” and signed a recording contract with RCA Records. The duo topped the charts in 1953 with the song “I Forgot More Than You’ll Ever Know.” Their taste of fame was short-lived, however; in August of that year, Betty was killed in a car accident. Skeeter was also injured in the crash, but continued the act with Betty’s sister Georgie until 1956.
Davis then moved to Nashville and hooked up with producer Chet Atkins. She came into her own as a solo artist in 1958 when her song “Lost to a Geisha Girl” reached No. 15 on Billboard’s country singles chart. The next year, Davis joined the Grand Ole Opry and earned the first of five Grammy nominations she would receive during her four-decade performing career.
Although she recorded the popular pop/country songs “(I Can’t Help You) I’m Falling Too” and “Gonna Get Along Without You Now,” Davis’ biggest crossover hit was the 1962 ballad “The End of the World.” The track reached No. 2 on the country chart, No. 1 on Billboard’s adult contemporary chart, No. 2 on the Hot 100 and No. 4 on the R&B list. In 1973, she was temporarily suspended from the Opry for publicly criticizing the Nashville police for arresting a group of religious zealots at a local mall.
Davis married and divorced three times, first to Kenneth Depew, then to Ralph Emery (a disk jockey and host of the TV show “Nashville Now”) and finally to bassist Joey Spampinato. She penned her autobiography, “Bus Fare to Kentucky,” in 1993, and co-wrote the children’s book, “The Christmas Note,” with Cathie Pelletier in 1997.