Sara Carter

~ Person


Sara Dougherty Carter (July 21, 1898 – January 8, 1979) was an American country music musician, singer, and songwriter. Remembered mostly for her deep, distinctive, mature singing voice, she was the lead singer on most of the recordings of the historic Carter Family act in the 1920s and 1930s. In her earliest recordings her voice was pitched very high.

Born in Copper Creek, Virginia (Rich Valley), she was the daughter of William Sevier Dougherty and Nancy Elizabeth Kilgore. Sara married A. P. Carter on June 18, 1915, but they were later divorced in 1939. They had three children: Gladys (Millard), Janette (Jett), and Joe.

In 1927, she and A. P. began performing as the Carter Family, perhaps the first commercial rural country music group. They were joined by her cousin, Maybelle, who was married to A. P.'s brother, Ezra Carter. Later she married Coy Bayes, A. P.'s first cousin, and moved to California in 1943, and the original group disbanded. In the late 1940s, Maybelle began performing with her daughters Helen, June, and Anita as The Carter Sisters (the act was renamed The Carter Family during the 1960s).

On some Carter Family recordings, Sara is incorrectly credited as author of the songs "Fifty Miles of Elbow Room" and "Keep on the Firing Line"; in truth she discovered these public domain songs when they were being sung at a Seventh-day Adventist church she visited. RCA gave her songwriter credit, as it did A. P. Carter on his public domain discoveries. The Carter Family recordings of these tunes did, however, bring the songs wide fame and are largely responsible for their being known today. Sara actually did write or cowrite several other songs. Examples include My Foothills Home, The Dying Soldier, Lonesome Pine Special, Farther On and Railroading on the Great Divide.

Sara reunited with Maybelle briefly in the 1960s for two albums, and they briefly performed together during the folk music craze of the time. (Video on YouTube) The duo were also featured as guests in a late 1960s episode of The Wilburn Brothers television show, singing "Little Moses" and "As The Band Kept Playing Dixie". Following this period, Sara went back into retirement in California.

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Album + Compilation

Year Title Artist RatingReleases
2004 Can't You Hear Me Callin': Bluegrass: 80 Years of American Music Various Artists 1
The Ultimate Yodelling Collection Various Artists 1

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