Male-Female Duos

Updated: February 28, 2011

Male-female vocal duos—often comprised of a husband and wife—were a popular singing configuration in country music beginning in the mid-1930s.

Male-female vocal duos—often comprised of a husband and wife—were a popular singing configuration in country music beginning in the mid-1930s.

The first and most influential of the male-female duos was the team of Lulu Belle and Scotty Wiseman, who broad- cast their music over radio programs on WLS Chicago. Natives of the North Carolina Blue Ridge, the two met and married in Chicago in 1934 and were based there through- out most of their professional careers (except for a brief stint in Cincinnati). Their recordings of such songs as “Remember Me” and “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You” became classics. In an altogether different vein, they performed songs such as “Madame, I’ve Come to Marry You” as comedy skits playing upon the theme of the battle of the sexes. Lulu Belle and Scotty also appeared in several motion pictures. Even after retiring to North Carolina in the late 1950s, they continued to record and to make sporadic appearances until Scotty’s death in 1981.

Four other married couples also helped define the male-female duo style. Eastern Kentucky natives Lynn Davis  and Molly O’Day (Lois LaVerne Williamson) married in  1941 and had a successful career as a duo on various radio stations (especially WNOX in Knoxville, Tennessee) and on  Columbia Records before shifting to evangelistic endeavors  in 1950. Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper, from Randolph County, West Virginia, performed together from their marriage in 1941 until Stoney’s death in 1977. Besides making numerous influential recordings for the Columbia and Hickory labels, the duo performed for a decade on radio station WWVA in Wheeling, West Virginia, and for twenty years on WSM and the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. Kentuckians James and Martha Carson were a popular male-female, mandolin-guitar duo. Based at WSB Atlanta through most of the 1940s, the Carsons recorded sacred songs exclusively for the White Church and Capitol labels until their marriage ended in the early 1950s. Lee and Juanita Moore (from central Ohio and eastern Kentucky, respectively) were another harmonizing couple who became radio favorites—especially at West Virginia’s WHIS Bluefield and WWVA Wheeling; the Moores recorded only sparingly and divorced in 1960.

Numerous other male-female harmony duos achieved varying degrees of success on smaller radio stations from the mid-1930s to the mid-1950s. West Virginia alone boasted such combinations as Radio Dot and Smoky (Swan), Ted and Wanda Henderson, Benny and Vallie Cain, Rex and Eleanor Parker, Cherokee Sue and Little John Graham, Doc and Chickie Williams, Charlie and Honey Miller, and the Davis Twins (a brother-sister duo). The male-female duo style has continued to thrive in commercial country music with record companies often matching two of their contracted artists for recordings and live performances. Examples of this include Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton, George Jones and Melba Montgomery, Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn, and George Jones and Tammy Wynette; in each of these instances, only the women had Appalachian backgrounds.

The male-female duo sound has endured in such con-  temporary folk groups as Tim and Mollie O’Brien, from Wheeling, West Virginia; Mac and Jenny Traynham, of  Willis, Virginia; and Carol Elizabeth Jones and James Leva,  based near Lexington, Virginia. Musical duos from outside the region—such as Grandpa and Ramona Jones from western Kentucky and Indiana, respectively; Colorado’s Ray and  Ina Patterson; and Nashville-based Barry and Holly Tashian  and Gillian Welch and David Rawlings—have displayed distinctly Appalachian influences in their stylings.

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MLA Style

"Male-Female Duos," Encyclopedia of Appalachia, 2014, Encyclopedia of Appalachia. 23 Oct 2014 <http://www.www.encyclopediaofappalachia.com/entry.php?rec=75>

APA Style

"Male-Female Duos." (2014) In Encyclopedia of Appalachia, Retrieved October 23, 2014, from Encyclopedia of Appalachia: http://www.www.encyclopediaofappalachia.com/entry.php?rec=75