Jenny Carson

Talented, successful, and often controversial, country songwriter of the pre-rock era.
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Artist Biography

b. Virginia Lucille Overstake, 13 January 1915, Decatur, Illinois, USA, d. 16 December 1978, Torrance, California, USA. Although Carson started her career as a singer, it was as a songwriter that she made her name in country music. In her early teens, growing up in a family with Salvation Army connections, she played guitar and sang with her sisters, Evelyn (b. 20 December 1914, Decatur, Illinois, USA) and Judy Martin (b. Eva Alaine Overstake, 16 July 1918, Decatur, Illinois, USA, d. 17 November 1951), as the Three Little Maids. From 1931-33, they were a popular act on Chicago’s WLS National Barn Dance, but disbanded when Eva married Red Foley.

In 1936, after marrying Jack Dumbald (they later divorced), Carson worked in Memphis until she returned to WLS in 1938. In the 30s, as Lucille Lee, with backing from Patsy Montana’s Prairie Ramblers (who recorded as the Sweet Violet Boys), she recorded some songs that many considered too risqué. Some were written by noted songwriter Bob Miller, who sought anonymity by copywriting them under the pseudonym of Trebor Rellim. They included such numbers as ‘There’s A Man Who Comes To Our House Every Single Day (Poppa Comes Home And The Man Goes Away)’, ‘Jim’s Windy Mule’ and ‘I Love My Fruit’ - a song that has been suggested as being the first gay hillbilly song (the young Patsy Montana was made to leave the studio when this material was recorded).

In the early 40s, Carson met and had an affair with Fred Rose and began to develop her songwriting. Red Foley had his first major hit (a country number 2) with ‘Never Trust A Woman’. Exactly when she acquired her change of name is not clear but in November 1944, when she recorded three sides for Decca Records, including ‘Jealous Heart’, she was billed as Jenny Lou Carson. The song became a country hit for Tex Ritter (1945), Al Morgan and Kenny Roberts (both 1949) and Barbara Seiner (1979), and in 1966, a UK pop hit for Connie Francis. Eddy Arnold had hits with several of her songs including ‘Chained To A Memory’, ‘The Echo Of Your Footsteps’, ‘I’ll Trade All My Tomorrows’ and ‘Don’t Rob Another Man’s Castle’, which also became a hit for Ernest Tubb and the Andrews Sisters. Another of her very successful songs was ‘Let Me Go Lover’. In 1955, it was a US number 1 in both country and pop charts, for Hank Snow and Joan Weber, respectively, while Ruby Murray took it to number 5 in the UK pop charts.

From 1946-49, she was married to band leader Tiny Hill but she was again divorced. During World War II, she was one of the most prolific composers of morale-boosting songs, including ‘Dear God Watch Over Joe’, ‘May God Be With You Sailor Boy’ and ‘When The Boys Come Marching Home’. These, together with her regular visits to wounded servicemen and correspondence with countless others, won her the affectionate title of the Radio Chin-Up Girl. She eventually gave up her writing and retired to California, where she died in 1978. She was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters’ Association International Hall Of Fame in 1971, only the second woman to receive the honour (the first being Cindy Walker the previous year). Several albums have been compiled from various 40s radio broadcasts and released under the name of the Overstake Sisters.