Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper were a husband-and-wife team whose career spanned back to the 1930s, and whose music remained resolutely, unapologetically hillbilly and hick, well into the "Nashville Sound" era, when the rest of Nashville went pop. Wilma Lee came from a family band that specialized in gospel material, and that influence remained a major part of their music for decades to come. The Cooper's daughter, Carol Lee Cooper, is a regular performer on the Grand Ole Opry, leading a group of back up vocalists... Here's a quick look at the Coopers and their legacy.


Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper "Walking My Lord Up Calvary Hill" (Hollywood, 1988)

Stoney Cooper & Wilma Lee "Sacred Songs" (Harmony, 1960)

Stoney Cooper & Wilma Lee "Songs Of Inspiration" (Hickory, 1963)

Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper "The Very Best Of" (Varese Sarabande, 2002)
Awsome! These mid-to-late-'50s recordings made for Wesley Rose's independent Hickory label are a treasure trove for fans of rugged, unruly country music. Their unapologetically rough, rural intonations were a throwback to the barn dance antics of the 1930s -- back when the Opry was just a little twinkle on the radio dial. Struggling along with the rest of their country brethren during the early rocknroll era, Cooper and Lee had a few hits in the '50s, including clamorous of folk oldies like "Midnight Special" and Stuart Hamblen's "This Ole House." Their version of Don Gibson's "There's A Big Wheel" was a big hit; also notable is their rambunctious take on the Louvin Brothers oldie, "There's A Higher Power," one of those hillbilly gospel tunes where they sound like they really mean it. Still, as far as the countrypolitan crowd was concerned, they were strictly backwoods second-stringers, and they mostly fell off the radar after a brief resurgence in the early '60s. This is a cool collection of some of their best country material -- great hick music that flew in the face of the style of the time.

Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper "Sing The Original Carter Family's Greatest Hits" (King, 2002)
I'm not sure when these tracks were actually recorded -- I'd guess the mid-1970s, but it's hard to say, since, as with many King/Gusto releases, the liner notes are pretty sparse. At any rate, Wilma & Stoney were pretty long in the tooth when these songs were recorded, and this is a pretty laid-back set... No zip or flashy pyrotechnics, though the songs are still great, and these performances have a calm, confident charm. Worth checking out...!

Wilma Lee Cooper "Classic Country Favorites" (Rebel, 1996)
(Produced by Mike Haynie)

A nice disc gathering two late sessions, one from 1979 and the other from 1981, with a humble band anchored by dobro player Gene Wooten; fiddler Tater Tate is on the '81 recordings. Cooper's daughter, Carol Lee Cooper, sings harmony throughout... Wilma Lee's voice is clearly that of an older woman, but still supple and robust, with strong phrasing and a dramatic command of the material. Worth checking out!

Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper "Best Of The Best" (King-Federal, 2003)

Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper "The Golden Age Of Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper" (Binge Discs, 2004)
Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper were a husband-and-wife team whose career spanned back to the '30s, and whose music remained resolutely hillbilly and hick, well into the "Nashville Sound" era, when the rest of Nashville went pop. This fine collection focusses on their early work on the Columbia, Rich-R-Tone and Harmony labels, material recorded between 1947-53, offering a soulful, rough-edged mix of heartsongs and old-timey stringband music, with a hefty dose of sentimental gospel material to round things out. This disc's a real treat, gathering material you're not likely to hear anywhere else anytime soon. Recommended!

Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper "On The Banks Of The River" (BACM, 2006)

Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper "24 Greatest All-Time Hits" (Tee Vee, 2006)

Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper "Big Midnight Special" (Bear Family, 2007)
Bear Family hits another one out of the ballpark... This is a swell 4-CD box set covering their work on the Columbia, Hickory and Rich-R-Tone labels... all great stuff, pure hick music from bygone days. Highly recommended!


Hick Music Index

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