Obituary: Nial "Sonny" Davis
He was born March 13, 1926, in New Lexington, OH, to the late Nial and Jeanette Davis.
In addition to his parents, he was also preceded in death by his wife, Louise Davis,
a daughter, Sheila Davis Gregory, a daughter-in-law, Betty "Betsy" Davis, three great-grandchildren,
Joshua Alan Davis, Alaina Louise Willamowski and Amari Dumm, his brothers Ralph Davis and Robert
Davis, and his sisters, Dorothy Davis and twin Ida Maxine "Honey" Jeffers.
On November 27, 1952, Sonny married Louise Long. They were married one month short
of 58 years prior to her death in 2010. On January 28, 2012, Sonny married Sherri Holt,
who survives him.
Sonny and his twin sister, Honey, (known to their legion of fans as “The Davis Twins”), grew up
as part of the golden age of radio. Their special “twins harmony” propelled them to
being voted the No. 2 duo in the country at the height of their career. At one point,
their fan club was receiving more than 7,000 pieces of mail a day.
Sonny and Honey began their careers at age 3 singing at church. They were taking piano lessons
at age six and soon after, Honey switched to mandolin and Sonny to guitar. During their
childhood years they started competing (and winning) multiple amateur contests and
it was their performance (and 1st place recognition) at the age of 12 (in 1938) at
the Ohio State Fair that set their long musical career in motion.
After that performance they were sought out to be part of the WWVA Jamboree “family”
in Wheeling, WV, but due to their young age their parents politely declined.
Two years later they were once again pursued to be a part of the Jamboree cast and this time
their parents accepted and they moved from New Lexington, OH to Wheeling, WV. Sonny and Honey
were born Ida Maxine and Nial, Jr., but since the Jamboree thought they needed “show names”
they became Honey and Sonny, the Davis Twins. As members of the “World’s Original Jamboree”,
which at that time rivaled Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry and Chicago’s WLS Barn Dance,
The Davis Twins performed with some of the biggest stars in country music.
During high school they began performing as guest stars on many famous country radio stations
(which was during the era of live radio broadcasts), and also began performing at numerous
Sonny enlisted in the United States Navy in March of 1944.
He and Honey graduated from Wheeling High School in May of 1944 and the very next day Sonny
reported for active duty (during World War II). After basic training,
Sonny was stationed at the Espiritu Santo Naval Base on the Island of Espiritu Santo
in the New Hebrides, (in the South Pacific). During his military service to our country,
Sonny used his skills as a disc jockey to entertain other military personnel who were lonely
and far away from home.
He was honorably discharged on June 5, 1946, as a Yeoman second class. Sonny was very patriotic
and was well known his entire life for his love of our country. After the war, Sonny
moved back to Wheeling and rejoined the Jamboree.
He and Honey toured numerous places in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Kentucky and Louisiana,
performing with several well-known musicians, like June Carter Cash, Grandpa Jones and
Ken Curtis (aka Festus on Gunsmoke). In the early 1960’s, The Davis Twins became regulars
on a live daily morning television show at WCHS-TV in Charleston, WV.
Honey had married George “Sleepy” Jeffers, also a musical entertainer,
and the twins appeared with Sleepy on “The Buddy Starcher Show” and later
all together on “The Sleepy Jeffers Show” with regulars, Herman Yarbrough
whose stage name was “Roscoe Swerps”, Lori Lee Bowles, “Little” Linda Jeffers,
Harry Griffith and Brady Withrow.
Even though Sonny loved being a musician and performer, he knew that the entertainment business
wouldn’t pay all of the bills. In the mid-1950’s, Sonny hired on as a disc jockey at
radio station WKLC in St. Albans where he greeted listeners with a “good morning”
on its first day of broadcasting. He later opened the day on the air every weekday
as a disc jockey at WCHS in Charleston, WV, opened an electronics repair shop and
taught music lessons.
In 1963, Sonny and his wife, Louise, opened their first “Sonny’s Frosty Twist” drive-in restaurant
at Gateway Shopping Center in St. Albans. They operated the “hotdog stand” for 22 years expanding
to a second location on Route 35 in St. Albans and for a short period of time a third one
in Nitro, WV. Sonny was well known for his line, “We make our own chili sauce” when doing
live ads for the “Sonny’s” drive-in restaurants on his radio program and was also known
for his sign off line from his disc jockey gig at WCHS each morning by saying “he had to
get home to see what his “little wifey”, Louise, has for breakfast – Bless her "lil" heart”.
In his later years, Sonny went to work at Casdorph Funeral home in St. Albans,
where he had many responsibilities. His outgoing personality served him well while working
there and he was very uplifting to many who had lost loved ones. In 2019 it was announced
that The Davis Twins would be among the 2020 inductees to the WV Music Hall of Fame. Honey
died not too long after that announcement and it was a bittersweet moment (because they
achieved the award together) for Sonny when he accepted the award in 2020. During the end
of the part of the broadcast of the 2020 induction ceremony honoring the twins, the announcer
said, “Throughout their long career, Honey and Sonny brought heartfelt music - and a
warm smile - to everyone who heard them. Their special “twins harmony” will hopefully
be enjoyed by many future generations.”
Sonny was baptized in 1958 and was a devoted Christian, son, husband, father, grandfather,
great-grandfather, brother, uncle and friend. As a faithful Christian, Sonny lived his
life so that he had the “Blessed Assurance” that he would live eternally in Heaven.
In addition to his wife of almost 10 years, Sherri Davis, Sonny is survived by three sons,
Nial Davis (Susan Sanders), of Port Charlotte, FL, Dana (Marcia) Davis,
of Bentonville, AR, Darrell (Cynthia) Davis, of Ravenswood, WV, two daughters,
Mona (John) Willamowski, of Lima, OH, Nila Davis ((fiancée, Bill Phend), of Ft. Wayne, IN,
two stepsons, Tommy (Beth) Wooten, of Birmingham, AL, Andy (Miranda) Wooten of Scott Depot, WV,
a stepdaughter, April (Richard) Ehrlich, of Hobart, IN, grandchildren, Maggie, Tiffany,
Christopher and Stephanie, (that he & Louise raised from ages 8 and 5 after their daughter died),
Justin, Blake, Ben, Julie, Adam, Sarah, Matt, Sheila, Kimberly, John, Jr., Bryanna, Michaela
and Nathan, 10 step grandchildren, 25 great-grandchildren (& one on the way),
5 step great-grandchildren and numerous nieces and nephews.
The service to honor and celebrate the life of Sonny will be held 11:00 a.m.,
Friday, December 3, 2021, at Casdorph & Curry Funeral Home, St. Albans, with Ministers
Steve Fox and Adam Davis officiating. Burial will follow in Cunningham Memorial Park, St. Albans.
A gathering of family and friends will be Thursday, December 2, 2021, from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
at the funeral home and one hour prior to the service at the funeral home. In lieu of flowers,
contributions in his memory may be made to the WV Music Hall of Fame, 1427 Lee Street,
Charleston, WV 25301, Churches of Christ Disaster Relief Effort, Inc., P.O. Box 111180,
Nashville, TN 37222, or the charity of your choice.
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