BMI’s database credits Wilma Lee Cooper with 15 published compositions and arrangements, including:

  • “Big Midnight Special”
  • “Cheated, Too” (also known as “(I’ve Been) Cheated Too”)
  • “He Taught Them How”
  • “I’ll Be Gone” (also known as “Tomorrow I’ll Be Gone”)

Early Influences

  • Parents: Jacob and Lola Leary
  • Gospel music / shape-note hymnals
  • Carter Family
  • The Grand Ole Opry
  • Roy Acuff
  • Cousin Emmy
  • Molly O’Day

From the Archives

“Now and then, somebody’ll come up, look around and say, ‘Where’s your music sheets?’ I tell them, ‘We don’t use them. You either hear music in your head or you don’t.’ Playing by note seems to sound so mechanical. You can’t play good country music by note—you’ve got to feel it to play it. Playing by note doesn’t have feeling.”
Quoted by Jerry Sharpe in “Born for Bluegrass - Wilma Lee Cooper Has Been Jammin’ Since 1938,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, August 6, 1999
“I like to keep some of the old folk songs in there because that’s my background. That’s what I was raised on. And I don’t want to ever forget where I came from. These are versions as I learned them, as I remember them. Through the years, I’ve always looked for a song that tells a story. I go for a song with a pretty story, And if a record company insisted I sing something that wasn’t a story song, it never amounted to anything, because I couldn’t put no feeling into it.”
Quoted by Robert K. Oermann in liner notes to Wilma Lee Cooper, Rounder Records, 1981.