About The Artist
JoAnn Davis was a regular on Jamboree USA for several years, mostly as girl vocalist with husband Jimmie Stephens although she also worked as a single. Davis started out to be a country singer; as a farm family girl, she sang in school and church as a child. Jo Ann finished high school in the Wheeling suburb of Tridelphia and worked as a telephone switchboard operator at a Wheeling department store. She recalls being at work when the announcement of the Kennedy assassination came over the wires. She later worked in the Business Office at Bethany College. She married and had two children, but the union lasted only five years.
Thinking that she would like to take guitar lessons, Jo Ann contacted WWVA where announcer John Corrigan suggested WWVA Jamboree artist Jimmy Stephens. At first, she did not care much for him, but eventually changed her mind. The two married and when Jimmy's girl singer Jean Perron left without notice, Jo Ann took her place. They performed together and separately for several years, becoming known as the "Sweethearts of the Jamboree."
The pair worked on many package shows and toured with other WWVA acts such as Doc & Chickie Williams, Bob Gallion & Patti Powell, Crazy Elmer, Karen McKenzie, Holly Garrett, and sometimes Nashville stars as well. They had a daughter Jomina who sometimes sang with them. The couple supplemented their income by operating a motel in nearby Valley Grove, West Virginia.
Jo Ann made several recordings with Jimmie, but her only solo effort was a cover of Connie Smith's "Just One Time." They also assisted Jomina-at age seven-on a single
After several years, the two went their separate ways, but remained friends. In 2003, Jo Ann married Don Vandergrift, himself another Jamboree artist and part of the Vandergrift Brothers. However, he died in August 2004. By this time Jimmy Stephens was suffering from terminal cancer and Jo Ann, ever the "good samaritan," cared for him until his death in 2006.
Past age 60 by then, Jo Ann reinvented herself again by writing a children's book, "Finding Pepper", about a little girl adopting a dog. Diagnosed with throat cancer, she was unable to speak for three months, but eventually recovered her speaking voice although she could no longer sing. She published another book, "Pickled Pepper" in 2015.
Sometimes she did shows where friends such as Holly Garrett or Karen McKenzie sang while Jo Ann did recitations. She also worked as a motivational and inspirational speaker. Jo Ann was profiled in Goldenseal magazine in fall 2013 by Mort Gamble who labeled her "Singer, Author, Survivor."
She was honored in 2017 by the Wheeling YWCA for Community Service. Still living in Valley Grove, she recently mourned the death of her close friend Barbara "Peeper" Smik.
Credits & Sources
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