Country husband-wife duo.
Born Wilma Leigh Leary on February 7, 1921, in Valley Head, West Virginia, Wilma Lee Cooper began singing publicly at the age of ﬁve in her family’s gospel music group. In 1938 the Leary Family Singers achieved national recognition when selected, through regional and state talent con- tests, to represent West Virginia at the National Folk Festival in Washington, D.C. As a result of this exposure, the family embarked on a career as radio performers, working on stations in Virginia and West Virginia.
In 1941 Wilma Lee married Dale Troy “Stoney” Cooper (b. October 16, 1918, in Harman, West Virginia). A ﬁddle player who had been hired to work in the Leary family group, Stoney Cooper brought to the act considerable experience as a performer on radio with other string bands. The newlyweds soon struck out on their own, performing on radio stations in the Southeast and Midwest. They joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1957. Wilma Lee, as a soloist and with Stoney, recorded extensively for such labels as Rich-R-Tone, Columbia, Decca, Rounder, and Leather. The Coopers’ biggest hits were “Come Walk with Me,” “There’s a Big Wheel,” and “Big Midnight Special.” Following Stoney’s death on March 22, 1977, Wilma Lee continued performing as a solo act, accompanying herself on guitar or backed by an acoustic band, keeping her musical style close to her Appalachian roots. During the latter years of her career, she received wide acceptance among bluegrass music enthusiasts and enjoyed steady work at bluegrass festivals. Wilma Lee Cooper died September 13, 2011.
Cite this Entry
"Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper," Encyclopedia of Appalachia, 2017, Encyclopedia of Appalachia. 22 Oct 2017 <http://www.encyclopediaofappalachia.com/entry.php?rec=59>
"Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper." (2017) In Encyclopedia of Appalachia, Retrieved October 22, 2017, from Encyclopedia of Appalachia: http://www.encyclopediaofappalachia.com/entry.php?rec=59
Stoney and Wilma Lee Cooper