Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper were among West Virginia’s best known husband-wife country music teams. Natives of Randolph County, Wilma Leigh Leary (February 7, 1921-September 13, 2011) married Dale Troy Cooper (October 16, 1918-March 22, 1977) in 1941. Known for their strong acoustical sound and distinct mountain style, their band, the Clinch Mountain Clan, usually consisted of mandolin, Dobro guitar, bass, and sometimes a banjo or second fiddle. Stoney played a fine fiddle, and Wilma Lee could accompany herself on either guitar or banjo.
They worked for a time at radio station WMMN Fairmont and at various locales outside the state. However, the highpoint of their radio careers was a decade (1947–57) at WWVA Wheeling, followed by 20 years at the Grand Ole Opry at WSM Nashville. Their biggest hits, recorded for Columbia and Hickory, included ‘‘Come Walk With Me,’’ ‘‘Each Season Changes You,’’ ‘‘Big Midnight Special,’’ and ‘‘There’s a Big Wheel,’’ as well as memorable sacred songs typified by ‘‘Thirty Pieces of Silver,’’ ‘‘Legend of the Dogwood Tree,’’ and ‘‘Walking My Lord Up Calvary Hill.’’
After Stoney Cooper’s death, Wilma Lee performed with the Clinch Mountain Clan on the Opry and became a favorite at bluegrass festivals. She recorded for both Rounder Records and Rebel Records. Daughter Carol Lee Cooper forged her own musical career as leader of the Carol Lee Singers, long known for their harmony vocal support at the Opry.
Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper were inducted into the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame in 2008.
This Article was written by Ivan M. Tribe
Last Revised on October 05, 2012
Tribe, Ivan M. Mountaineer Jamboree: Country Music in West Virginia. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1984.
Cite This Article
Tribe, Ivan M. "Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 05 October 2012. Web. 01 September 2014.