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Sara Carter

Sara Carter
Born (1898-07-21)July 21, 1898
Origin Copper Creek, Virginia, U.S.
Died January 8, 1979(1979-01-08) (aged 80)
Genres Country, folk, gospel
Occupation(s) Singer-songwriter, musician
Instruments Vocals, autoharp, guitar
Years active 1927–1943, 1960-1971
Labels Victor, ARC, Decca
Associated acts Carter Family

Sara Dougherty Carter (July 21, 1898 – January 8, 1978) 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.[1]

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.[1]

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, Sara 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.[1] (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.


  • Legacy 1
  • See also 2
  • References 3
  • Sources 4


Carter was inducted as part of the Carter Family in the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1970 along with Bill Monroe. [2] In 1993, her image appeared on a U.S. postage stamp honoring the Carter Family. In 2001 she was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Honor.

Never particularly enjoying the limelight, Sara Carter lived privately throughout her life and left the promotion and care of the Carter Family legacy to others. Nevertheless, her contribution to the group was invaluable and as a country music female vocalist she strongly influenced generations of women, including Kitty Wells, Jean Shepard, Skeeter Davis, and Loretta Lynn with her blunt, "from the heart" vocals.

On her 2008 album All I Intended to Be, Emmylou Harris includes the song "How She Could Sing the Wildwood Flower", co-written with Kate and Anna McGarrigle, about the relationship between Sara and A. P., inspired by a documentary that the three of them saw on television.

Sara Carter died in Lodi, California, and is interred in the Mt. Vernon United Methodist Church graveyard in Hiltons, Virginia.[3]

The A. P. and Sara Carter House, A. P. Carter Homeplace, A. P. Carter Store, Maybelle and Ezra Carter House, and Mt. Vernon Methodist Church are listed on the National Register of Historic Places as components of the Carter Family Thematic Resource.[4][5]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Zwonitzer, Mark; Hirshberg, Charles (2004). Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone?: The Carter Family & Their Legacy in American Music. Simon & Schuster.  
  2. ^ Wolfe, Charles. "Carter Family". Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum. Retrieved February 17, 2010. 
  3. ^ A History of Mt. Vernon United Methodist Church
  4. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places.  
  5. ^ Carter Family TR


  • Wolfe, Charles (1998). "The Carter Family". In The Encyclopedia of Country Music. Paul Kingsbury, Editor. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 84–5, 617.
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