Wilma Lee CooperView in iTunes
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Born Wilma Lee Leary, songwriter and singer Wilma Lee Cooper was raised in a well-known musical group that sang at local churches and festivals, billing themselves as the Leary Family. At one point, the Learys were even invited by Eleanor Roosevelt to perform at a national folk festival. Upon graduating from high school Wilma obtained a degree in banking at Davis and Elkins College. Near the same time she met and married guitarist Stoney Cooper. For the next 40 years the two performed as one of country music's most popular duos. Their performances, including a ten-year stint on Wheeling, WV's Jamboree and another decade performing at the Grand Ole Opry, led to recording contracts with both Columbia and Decca. Wilma, a skillful banjoist, guitarist, and organist, wrote or co-wrote several of their most successful compositions, including "Cheated Too," "Loving You," "I Tell My Heart," and "Heartbreak Street." After Stoney's death in 1977 Wilma continued to perform, once again joining the cast of the Grand Ole Opry. However, her performing days ended when she had a stroke while playing on the Grand Ole Opry stage in 2001, although she recovered sufficiently to appear at the Opry later as a non-performer and offer greetings and thank-yous to fans. Wilma Lee Cooper is featured among the Smithsonian Institute's collection of great singers. ~ Steve Kurutz