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Feb. 7: Happy 89th birthday to Wilma Lee Cooper, who for many years kept the sound of the Appalachian Mountains alive on the Grand Ole Opry, initially with the group centered on her and husband Stoney, and later as a widow. This one from the mid-’50s slightly pre-dates the Clinch Mountain Clan’s biggest period of commercial success, pointing the way to their winning sound: full-throated mountain-style singing combined with elements of contemporary country music instrumentation.

“Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper were born to sing traditional country music,” writes journalist Craig Harris, and he’s correct. Their musical and romantic partnership, born on stage with her family’s gospel act in the late 1930s, took them to radio stations throughout the South and Midwest. After 10 big years in the cast of the WWVA Jamboree in Wheeling, they joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1957. It set them up for their turn-of-the-decade hits “Come Walk With Me,” “Big Wheel” and “Big Midnight Special.” Read Harris’ piece on Allmusic.com to learn more about their days together and hers carrying on alone, a career ended by a stroke suffered on the Opry stage in 2001.

This recording comes from the archives of Classic Country Gold, the syndicated radio show once produced by my friend Kyle Cantrell, the bluegrass boss at Sirius/XM satellite radio and formerly a longtime Opry and WSM-AM 650 announcer. He refers to a request from “Kevin in Nashville” to play “Each Season Changes You.” That was me, and Kyle obliged on the episode from this week in 2004. You’ll hear a good, honest pop or two — he had to go to the vinyl for this one, a record he borrowed from fellow DJ Eddie Stubbs. I appreciated then that Kyle made the effort to play one of my favorite records, and I appreciate today him letting me reach back and use that cut. Hope you have enjoyed our joint birthday, Mrs. Cooper.

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