1923-1987, Born in Pike County, KY
Lived in Huntington, Cabell County, 1940-1987
Molly O’Day was a pioneering vocalist who blazed a trail for female country artists of today. Born Lois LaVerne Williamson, she grew up listening to Patsy Montana, Lulu Belle Wiseman, Lily May Ledford and others. Molly eventually began singing and playing guitar in a string band with her brothers Cecil (Skeets) and Joe (Duke). In 1939, Skeets began playing on a radio station in Charleston. Molly soon joined him, taking the name “Mountain Fern.” She also played in a group led by Johnnie Bailes (a 2009 WVMHoF inductee) that included her brother Skeets and Little Jimmy Dickens. A year later, she joined guitarist Lynn Davis’s band the Forty Niners and adopted the name “Dixie Lee Williamson.”
She and Davis were married in 1941. Over the next few years, the Forty Niners toured extensively throughout the south, finally settling in Louisville, KY, in 1946. While Davis and O’Day’s duet performances were a hit with the audiences, it was her soulful solo renditions of inspirational music that led writer/publisher Fred Rose to sign her to Columbia Records.
While signed to Columbia, O’Day performed a number of songs penned by the great Hank Williams, an old friend from the radio days. It was Williams – at the time still undiscovered – who taught her “Tramp on the Street,” which she cut in her first recording session. The song sold more than a million copies and became her most popular song. She and Davis spent much of their time together touring over the next several years and O’Day began performing religious material almost exclusively.
In the early 1950s, O’Day gave up show business for the most part, preferring to sing in churches. In the mid-’50s, Davis became an ordained minister and started a successful radio ministry as a gospel music DJ. The couple spent the next four decades preaching throughout West Virginia coal mining communities.