Martha Carson was a native of Neon, KY in Letcher County and enjoyed
success seemingly every step of the way in her careers.
She started picking folk tunes and spirituals on her mail
order guitar when she was in grammar school. She was even composing
hew own songs before she was ten years old. Her musical
career then took her to singing old-time and gospel songs with her sisters Bertha
and Opal; they were known as the Sunshine Sisters and were quite a popular
radio act. Along came 1939 and while working over at radio station
WLAP in Louisville on Asa Martin's "Morning Roundup" show,
she met up with James Roberts, a mandolin player
who was the son of the legendary fiddler, Doc Roberts. They got
hitched and began performing together as a duo and moved on to
radio station WHIS in Bluefield, WV in 1939.
From there, she moved on to the Renfro Valley Barn Dance
in Kentucky and became one of the Coon Creek Girls. While a member
of the Coon Creek Girls, they went to WSB's Barn Dance in
Atlanta, Georgia in 1940. At WSB, she and her husband began
performing as "James and Martha Carson, the Barn Dance Sweethearts",
doing country gospel tunes and were a popular act there for about ten
Together, they moved on to Knoxville's WNOX and were part of the noontime
"Mid Day Merry-Go-Round" show. Martha also appeared on such
shows as the Georgia Jubilee, Sunny Side of Life, Mid-day Merry
Go Round, Tennessee Barn Dance and others.
In an interesting bit of trivia, her friends said she
has never performed in the same costume twice.
A Birmingham station once celebrated "Martha Carson Day"
during which they played all of her numbers,
and saluted Martha as "...one of the most
popular and beloved folk music stars of the country."
In 1951, she was divorced from James. From that point on
she pursued a solo career both as a song writer and singer.
In May 1952, Martha answered the invitation to join the famed
the Grand Ole Opry heard over WSM in Nashville, TN. While there,
she appeared on morning programs, the Opry and weekly on WSM-TV.
She was also featured nightly for a stint on the Astor Roof.
Martha could sing the country style ballads but was
best-known for her religious and gospel tunes. A 1947 recording
of "The Sweetest Gift" and her husband's "Man of Gallilee" were
highly acclaimed. Her Opry stint was the result of a rousing
popular recording called "Satisfied". Another popular tune of hers
was "I'm Gonna Walk and Talk With My Lord". Her records climbed
the charts and were popular on the jukeboxes.
She remained on the Grand Ole Opry until around 1957 when she
had remarried and took a 'leave of absence' for the birth of her
first child and to attend some commitments in New York. But for
some reason, never returned to the Opry.
Credits & Sources
- Portions based on Country Song Roundup No. 22, February 1953,
American Folk Publications, Inc., Derby, CT.
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