Mary Frances Penick (December 30, 1931 – September 19, 2004), better known as Skeeter Davis, was an American country music singer best known for crossover pop music songs of the early 1960s. She started out as part of The Davis Sisters as a teenager in the late 1940s, eventually landing on RCA Records. In the late '50s, she became a solo star. Her best-known hit was the pop classic "The End of the World" in 1963.
One of the first women to achieve major stardom in the country music field as a solo vocalist, she was an acknowledged influence on Tammy Wynette and Dolly Parton and was hailed as an "extraordinary country/pop singer" by The New York Times music critic Robert Palmer.
Davis was the first of seven children born to William and Punzie Penick, in Dry Ridge, Kentucky. Because her grandfather thought that she had a lot of energy for a young child, he nicknamed Mary Frances "Skeeter" (slang for mosquito). In 1947, the Penick family moved to Erlanger, Kentucky, where Skeeter met Betty Jack Davis and Wanda Rose Rader at Dixie Heights High School, becoming instant friends. They sang together through much of high school, and at Decoursey Baptist Church, where Wanda's father was the pastor. They formed a group known as the Davis Sisters (although they were unrelated), and started singing on Detroit radio station WJR's program Barnyard Frolics. Wanda was unable to travel, so Skeeter & B.J. began to make a name as a duet. Eventually, the duo were signed by RCA Records in 1951.
RCA Records producer Steve Sholes liked the Davis Sisters' harmonies and offered the duo a recording contract in 1953. Their most successful release was "I Forgot More Than You'll Ever Know", which spent eight weeks at No. 1 on the country charts in 1953, as well as making the Top 20 on the pop charts. The record ranks No. 65 on the Top 100 Country Singles of All Time, according to Billboard historian Joel Whitburn.
While "I Forgot More Than You'll Ever Know" was climbing the charts, the Davis Sisters were involved in a major car accident on August 1, 1953. The crash killed Betty Jack Davis and left Skeeter with severe injuries. After the accident, Skeeter and Betty Jack's sister Georgia continued as the Davis Sisters although none of their records were major hits. Skeeter decided to retire from the music industry in 1956 and get married, ending the duet.
In the early '60s, Davis followed the heels of Brenda Lee and Patsy Cline to become one of the first big-selling female country crossover acts, although her pop success was pretty short-lived. The weepy ballad "The End of the World," though, was a massive hit, reaching number two in 1963.
"I Can't Stay Mad at You," a Top Ten hit the same year, was downright rock & roll; penned by Gerry Goffin and Carole King, it sounded like (and was) an authentic Brill Building girl group-styled classic. Goffin and King also wrote another successful girl group knockoff for her, "Let Me Get Close to You," although such efforts were the exception rather than the rule. Usually she sang sentimental, country-oriented tunes with enough pop hooks to catch the ears of a wider audience, such as "I Will."
Davis concentrated on the country market after the early '60s, although she never seemed too comfortable limiting herself to the Nashville crowd. She recorded a Buddy Holly tribute album in 1967, when Holly wasn't a hot ticket with either the country or the rock audience. But she certainly didn't reject country conventions either: She performed on the Grand Ole Opry and recorded duets with Bobby Bare, Porter Wagoner, and George Hamilton IV. In the 1980s, she had a mild comeback with the rock crowd after recording an album with NRBQ; she also married NRBQ's bass player, Joey Spampinato.
Davis continued to perform frequently throughout much of the 1990s and into 2000. Quite a bit of her touring during the 1980s and 1990s was in international markets such as Barbados and Singapore where she remained a pop superstar. In 2001 she became incapacitated by the breast cancer that would claim her life. While Davis remained a member of the Grand Ole Opry until her death, she last appeared there in 2002. She died of breast cancer in a Nashville, Tennessee, hospice at the age of 72, on September 19, 2004. (Info edited from Wikipedia & All music)
Skeeter performs her signature hit. From 1965