About The Artist
Mary Lou Turner, a native of Hazard, Kentucky, moved with her parents to Dayton, Ohio in early childhood, following the path of thousands of Appalachians seeking a better way of life. Others who followed this path included the Osborne Brothers, Red Allen and Joe Isaacs. While they made names for themselves in bluegrass, Ms. Turner found her musical home in mainstream country. Her career path went from Dayton to Wheeling's Jamboree to Nashville and eventually to Branson, Missouri.
Turner was only an infant when her parents left the mountains for Ohio's Miami Valley. As a teenager, she guested a couple of times on WLW's Midwestern Hayride and recorded a custom single on a label in Nashville.
After high school, the young vocalist secured a regular spot on WWVA's soon to be renamed Jamboree U S A. She also married David Byrd who would serve as her pianist and band leader.
Mary Lou spent nearly eight years at the Jamboree. During this time, she recorded a long play album on the Jamboree label. Her appearance schedule took her through many adjacent states in the East and Midwest as well as an extended tour of military bases.
But another break came her way when Bill Anderson's long-time female vocalist Jan Howard left his employ and Ms. Turner took her place in January 1973. Billboard told readers in an early February issue that Mary Lou's first appearance with Bill was in Charlotte, NC. She was said to be warmly received by a crowd of over 8,000.
She was also on Bill Anderson's first tour in the United Kingdom; it started on February 5, 1975. In another first, Bill brought Jimmy Gately and the Po' Boys along with Mary Lou to the famed Palomino club in Los Angeles for the first time in February 1976.
In October of 1976, Billboard named Bill Anderson and Mary Lou Turner as Vocal Duo of the Year. The awards were based on the top records of the year and their charts.
The Anderson connection also got Mary Lou a contract with his label, MCA (formerly Decca). Over the next five years she had ten singles on MCA, seven of which made the Billboard charts. "It's Different with You" ranked highest at the 25th spot in 1976. On the other hand, her two long-play albums and four charted duets with Whispering Bill did much better. "Sometimes" hit number one in 1975 and two more made the top twenty with the 1977 "Where Are You Going, Billy Boy" (a re-write of an old traditional ballad) being perhaps the most memorable.
By 1978, Turner had departed from MCA and in 1980 from the Bill Anderson connection. Before leaving Bill, she went with him on a United Kingdom tour in February. In early March of 1980, Loudilla Johnson was reporting that Mary Lou had recently formed her own road show. At the same time, she formed her own Fan Club that was presided over by Jo Schmitt in Minnesota.
Signing with the new Churchill Records label, she charted four times, but none went higher than #78. First she went solo and then sang some gospel.
By the mid-1980's, Mary Lou and David found a new home in Branson where she worked as vocalist and he as pianist in Boxcar Willie's (Lecil Martin) successful theater venture. The Byrds spent several seasons there through at least 1994 and probably longer.
While no later information is available to this writer, the reports that Mary Lou Turner retired in 1980 were at least premature by fifteen years.
Credits & Sources
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