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Sara Carter
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Sara Carter
Sara Carter
Carter Family 1927.jpg
Carter on the right with the rest of the Carter family
Background information
Sara Elizabeth Dougherty
Born (1898-07-21)July 21, 1898
Copper Creek, Virginia, U.S.
Died January 8, 1979(1979-01-08) (aged 80)
Lodi, California, U.S.
Genres Country, folk, gospel
Singer-songwriter, musician
Instruments Vocals, autoharp, guitar, guitaro
1927-43, 1952-56, 1960-71
Labels Victor, ARC, Decca
Carter Family

Sara Elizabeth Carter (ne;e Dougherty; later Sara Carter Bayes; July 21, 1898 - January 8, 1979) 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]

Life and career

Born in Copper Creek, Virginia, the daughter of William Sevier Dougherty and Nancy Elizabeth Kilgore, she married A. P. Carter on June 18, 1915, but they were later divorced in 1936.[1] They had three children: Gladys (Mrs. Millard), Janette, 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 brought the songs wide fame. She did write or co-write several other songs, including "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](see Video on YouTube) The duo was featured as guests in a late 1960s episode of the Wilburn Brothers television show, singing "Little Moses" and "As The Band Played Dixie". Following this period, Sara retired in California.[2]


Carter was inducted as part of the Carter Family in the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1970 along with Bill Monroe. [3] In 1993, her image appeared on a U.S. postage stamp honoring the Carter Family.[4] In 2001 she was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Honor.[5]

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.[]


Grave of Sara Carter Bayes and children at Mount Vernon United Methodist Church at Hiltons, Virginia

Sara Carter died in Lodi, California, aged 80, and is interred in the Mt. Vernon United Methodist Church graveyard in Hiltons, Virginia. 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.[6][7]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Zwonitzer, Mark; Hirshberg, Charles (2004). Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone?: The Carter Family & Their Legacy in American Music. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-7432-4382-X. 
  2. ^ Lornell, Kip. "Carter, Sara (1898-1979)". Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved . 
  3. ^ Wolfe, Charles. "Carter Family". Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum. Archived from the original on August 7, 2011. Retrieved 2010. 
  4. ^ "'Legends' Series Salutes Country-western Stars". Sun-Sentinel. Retrieved . 
  5. ^ "Sara Carter". International Bluegrass Music Museum. Retrieved . 
  6. ^ National Park Service (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  7. ^ Carter family profile, (PDF); accessed November 14, 2015.


  • 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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