Cooper, Wilma Lee (and Stoney)


  • From Valley Head, West Virginia.
  • Wilma Lee, her parents and two sisters had a gospel group in the 1930’s called the Leary Family. Wilma Lee began performing at the age of five.
  • Dale T. “Stoney” Cooper was hired as the Leary family’s fiddle player. He married Wilma Lee in 1940.
  • Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper performed together for 38 years.
  • 1957, they became members of the Grand Ole Opry.
  • 1957-1961, they had four top ten Billboard country hits including “Big Midnight Special” and “There’s a Big Wheel.”
  • Their band, The Clinch Mountain Clan, was one of the first to feature the Dobro™.
  • Wilma Lee has been known for her powerful and energetic lead singing. She said her style came about because when she started out as a singer—there were no sound systems. “Back in those days, you were good if you were loud. It was the only way you could be heard!”
  • Wilma Lee was Hank Williams’ favorite female singer. She recorded duets with him in 1951.
  • 1974, the Smithsonian Institution named her “the first lady of bluegrass.”
  • 1977, Stoney died at the age of 58.
  • 1994, the IBMA presented her with a Distinguished Achievement Award.
  • Daughter Carol Lee led her own group “The Carol Lee Singers” who performed as regulars on the Grand Ole Opry providing background vocals for many Opry stars.
  • 2001, suffered a stroke while performing on stage at the Grand Ole Opry.
  • Wilma Lee died in 2010 at the age of 90.