Martha Carson, the "Rockin' Queen of Happy Spirituals" whose gospel
sound influenced Elvis Presley, Connie Smith and numerous others,
died yesterday at 1 p.m. in Nashville. She was 83 years old, and had
been in fragile health for the past year.
"She was the first Grand Ole Opry star I ever saw in person,"
said Smith, now an Opry star in her own right, who saw Ms. Carson
play at an Ohio theater in the early 1960s. "I remember the way
she played that guitar, the red hair, the curls coming down the front.
She was so energetic and so powerful: If she'd walked out of the building
and kept singing on down the street, I believe everybody in that theater
would have followed her."
Born Irene Ethel Amburgey in Neon, Ky., Ms. Carson's career began in the
1930s as a member of a trio with her two sisters. In 1939, she married
mandolin player James Carson, and the two performed on radio stations
including WNOX in Knoxville. Their material included gospel numbers
like When God Dips His Pen Of Love In My Heart, and their independent
record label success led to a contract with Capitol Records.
"We played a lot of package shows together, back in the late '40s
and early '50s," said Bluegrass Hall of Fame member Mac Wiseman.
"She had that electricity on stage, and she was a great guitar picker.
She showed no mercy on that guitar."
The Carsons' marriage and musical partnership ended in 1951, the same year
Ms. Carson recorded her best-known song, Satisfied. That song allowed her
entry into the Grand Ole Opry (though she eventually left the show),
and it would later be re- corded by Elvis Presley. In 1953, she married
promoter Xavier Cossť, and the ensuing years found her moving from
Capitol to RCA and making her way into a more pop-oriented market.
Other Related Stories:
Martha Carson - Singer of the gospel hit 'Satisfied' - The Independent
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