A Conversation

from Country Song Roundup, July 1968

Skeeter Davis

CSR: Have you been busy lately?

Skeeter: I've been recording. In fact, with this cold I have, I've had such a time trying to get an album down for release ... probably in the early spring, which isn't too far around the corner.

CSR: I understand you lost your voice for a while.

Skeeter: Everybody got a laugh out of that. Last week for two days I couldn't even squeak. I did the Mike Douglas Show. We were talking about things that I've done, and I've been busy. I watched his show just a while ago, the one Minnie Pearl and Grandpa Jones were on, and it was really great. Of course, Mike recently had a whole week of country and western artists, and I feel thrilled because I was on. I've been home now for two weeks with the cold. Now the day that I'm going to be on the show on TV here in Nashville, I'll be up in Michigan. They show it up there a week later. I won't get to see me.

CSR: Did you enjoy doing the Douglas Show?

Skeeter: Yes, I did. I did it once before, Bill, and I was so anxious to do it again. I had seen Mike perform, especially when he had the country artists on, and he seemed like such a warm, friendly, nice person, and I was real anxious to see if he really was that way. He really is. He's just real nice, and he gets a lot of fun out of the show. I think that's important ... especially for the host. Of course, Buck Owens was on as co-host the day I was on, and I'm always glad to see a familiar face.

CSR: I think Douglas has done an awful lot for country music, don't you?

Skeeter: I sure do. Now today was something to see. All the acts were extreme country, like Minnie Pearl and Grandpa Jones and Jimmy Dickens - you can't get any more Grand Ole Opry than that. It really helps to expose us to everybody, especially the people who are not country fans. The more you expose it, it just means that many more new fans for country music. People say "Gee, if Mike Douglas digs it, it must be pretty good." In other words, I think it brings us more fans and friends by him having faith in it.

CSR: Does it bother you when people turn their noses up at country?

Skeeter: Oh, yes. I think it does everybody that's country. A lot of my records - in fact, my biggest selling records that really made me more money - were the ones that went into the pop field. It's so funny when some people say I'm not country and I say, "Oh, yes, I am." One time I'll never forget: it was one of my best years and Roger Miller and I were talking. It seemed like here we were fighting to promote country music to the pop people, and that year it seemed we were almost ne­glected by the country people. We were both so hurt. We were sitting there talking about what we came across and Roger said, "You know, when they start saying, that's not country, I'll tell you one thing: pop just appeals to the masses and masses, rhymes with molasses, and brother, that's country!" But I'm country and I want to be. If somebody says they don't like country music, I'm almost ready to fight because I find out that they haven't listened. I say, "Well, do you like Eddy Arnold? Do you like Ferlin Husky or Jim Reeves?"' Most of the time they've heard these people and accepted them, but they didn't think they were country. I hope anybody who didn't think Eddy was country, watched him on the Mike Douglas Show because he talked about plowing and being raised on a farm.

CSR: Were you at one time offered a part in a Broadway show?

Skeeter: It was "A Joyful Noise." They called me up and wanted me to come up. I couldn't imagine how they even knew me, and I found out that the producer visited the Grand Ole Opry, and they said he was impressed with me. It really thrilled me and I talked to Chet and Chet said, "Skeeter, maybe you should do that. It might open a lot of doors to a lot of big producers." Sometimes a lot of people talk to me about summer stock and so on, and it amazes me that people see this in me. Maybe I'm just scared, but it really doesn't appeal to me. I just want to sell records and I want to sell pop, but I want to remain as I am - basically country. I want to work the Opry and keep all the country things that I do, and I don't want to get out of my field. If I do a Broadway play, that's kind of out of my field. If I had dreamed of it, then I would prefer it. I was real thrilled when I was asked, and I talked to my housekeeper. I couldn't see me and my housekeeper living in an apartment in New York with our seven dogs. I didn't think I could do it.

Skeeter DavisCSR: Why in the world do you have seven dogs?

Skeeter: Well, they say happiness is a warm puppy. A long time ago Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper gave me a little Pekingese and he died. It was the first housedog I had ever had. I loved this little Pekingese. His name was Tink­er. Well, I was going to the Dick Clark Show, in 1960, because I had a record called "I Can't Help You, I've Fallen Too." It was the first record that I had that sold in the top ten. Well, I flew up there and I cried and cried and cried. Then, when I came back, I was doing the Ozark Jubilee with Red Foley and Sy Simon. I was still upset over losing my Tinker, so they went out and bought me this little Pekingese. They sent me a wire with it which I had framed. It said, "May the cold nose of Tinker Two remind you of the warm friends you have at Springfield." Then about three years later, I found another little female Pekingese. So, I took her on the road.

I'm sure you and a lot of fans know that I'm divorced. I've been divorced for over three years. Well, I lived alone and I was very upset and depressed. My career just about folded because there was so much depression. I didn't even go in and record for a single for over two years. The only thing that came out was when Chet said I had to have an album out. Chet was to pick out the material and I would just do it. I had no heart. It was like I was almost dead. I had a collie, but the collie got pneumonia. So, my guitar player and his friend bought me these poodles and I named them Sonny and Cher. There are two more of the dogs. I think because of the loneliness that I felt in this big house, and the fact that I didn't have any children, made me put all my affection on the little puppies. They became my children. It's not that I'm a kook or anything, but I think you got to love something and dogs don't hurt me. I bought my two little yorkies for Christmas from England. Then my little Taffy got a slip­ped disk. She was the one that was on the road all the time with me. So I retired her from the road after four years and bought her a little gold necklace with rhinestones in it.

Skeeter DavisCSR: What kind of songs do you like recording the most? Ballads?

Skeeter: Ballads, definitely. To me it seems the sadder the better. I can appreciate a novelty song sometimes, but the songs that always strike me best, even when sung by other people, are the ballads and the sad songs. I don't have any children, so it's kinda funny that I love the song "I Don't Wanna Play House" so much, but it's one of my favorites and I think it's the greatest. It's so sad.

CSR: What do you look forward to doing? Do you want to get in the movies and things like that?

Skeeter: Well, not really. I have to be honest. I think I love success and I think this gives me, especially now that I'm not married, more or less, a chance to be married to my career. ­I want another hit. I don't expect another number one pop hit because I'm not in that field, but I would like to have more records. Not just for the money, because I won't starve for a while if I don't have them, but I think it's the personal satisfaction that it gives me in thinking that many people like Skeeter Davis enough to play the records at home. It's a psychological thing. Everybody's not going to believe it. They'll think I'm greedy, but I'll try to prove my point.

I started getting all these little gifts and things, stuffed animals and charms, and I have a room in my house especially set aside to house these things. I have a charm bracelet that I have so many charms on that I had it made into a charm necklace. The jeweler said he never heard of one. I used to carry it in my recording sessions and I hang on to little things like that which remind me that I'm doing it for someone out there. Somebody likes me. The room was really a bedroom, but I gave the furniture away because I kept getting more and more animals and I have three bedrooms now. My room, the house­keeper's, and the guest room. In this other room I started putting all these little animals on the floor and I also have a little table in there. Well, I want you to know that I finally had shelves built around in the room, and it's nothing now but animals. Like last night I wanted to hear some records, so I went into that room. Instead of playing them on the stereo, I played them on this portable. If people just knew how many times I go in there and enjoy all these cute little things that they've given me. When I get mad at this business and feel that maybe I should have been something else, like a wife or some­thing, 1 just think about all those things I get and I feel like I was really called. It just makes it all worth while.

Skeeter DavisCSR: Skeeter, you just did a record with Don Bowman. That must have been something else.

Skeeter: Yes. I don't know what you all think about this. We had a lot of fun doing it. They called me one day and then two or three days later we had to record it. Don kept planning to come to my house and tell me what I was to do. I really didn't know. Well, I got so nervous. He was on the Bill Anderson show and didn't get home until two o'clock in the morning, then the next day went right back to it. He didn't come, and finally the day we were supposed to record he came by my house at two o'clock. We were sup­posed to record at three. I asked what we were going to do and he said we were going to do a parody on Jan and Bill's "For Loving You." I said the song was too pretty and I didn't want to do it and I asked if he thought Jan and Bill would be upset, and he said no, they would love it. He hadn't written any words, so I started writing real quick and they were extreme opposites, but when we got there, Don said we would use their words. It was a real riot and everyone just died laugh­ing.

CSR: Who were the people that you think most influenced you in your career?

Skeeter: I think the one that helped me the most would be Chet Atkins. When RCA Victor first signed me, they asked me to do a solo work. I was so scared at first I couldn't. Then finally, because I did love the business so much, I said I would try it. I was one of the first artists that Chet produced records with, so Chet started working with me from the beginning. He brought me along and he wanted to do a harmony right away, but I couldn't. The Davis sisters were still fresh in my mind, and I worried about that sound. I thought I couldn't do a good job. But Chet brought me along and got me singing. I guess he brought out the Skeeter Davis in me. After a while Chet didn't really have the time because he had to work with a lot of artists, and Felton Jarvis had just started with RCA Victor. Chet said to me that he was going to let Felton Jarvis work on this album I was about to record, and I said okay. I loved Chet but I had to relieve him of the burden of me. Felton didn't have a lot of artists, so he took me and I just picked up the pieces. He had a lot of enthusiasm and had more time for me than Chet did. He really brought me along again and got me on the charts. I'm feeling good again, and I guess they are the people that helped me the most. When I first came to the Opry I worked with Ernest, and Ernest was the one that brought me to Nashville.

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