Modern country music doesn’t much resemble what I remember coming out of the radio during my childhood, but I don’t have a big problem with it. In fact, some of it is pretty good. But it would be a shame if the slick, packaged music of today caused modern listeners to run away from the pure, unvarnished sounds of the past.
Which brings us to Molly O’Day. Born Lois LaVerne Williamson, a child of Appalachia who grew up in a coal-mining family during the Great Depression, she certainly had the background for a country music career. She was also able to listen to early radio stars like Patsy Montana, so it’s not surprising that by her teens she was singing with her brothers on the radio.
In the early days she began using stage names like Mountain Fern and Dixie Lee Williamson, and eventually — after joining her soon-to-be husband Lynn Davis’s band during the war years — she began calling herself Molly O’Day. Her full-throated voice, often belting out inspirational songs, was exactly what middle America wanted to hear in those days.
In addition to starring on radio, the group toured to great success and also made a number of good-selling records during that period. In the post-war years things began to slow a little, but she continued to make records that did well with fans, and she and Davis still appeared on stage from time to time. Unfortunately, within a few years she suffered a mental breakdown that would keep her out of the spotlight for a while.
She returned to performing in the early 1950s, and her and Davis (who had become an ordained minister) devoted themselves to inspirational music and evangelism in West Virginia coal country. They would also occasionally show up on gospel-based radio in later years. Molly O’Day — Lois Williamson — died of natural causes in 1987.