1912 - 1996
"The Queen of Country Comedy" was born Sarah Ophelia Colley, on October 25, 1912, in Centerville, Tennessee. Her father was a prominent businessman, and her mother was a homemaker who played organ at church. Her love for dancing and acting was developed at a very young age, and when permitted, she would go to vaudeville shows.
After graduating from high school, she attended Nashville's Ward-Belmont College, where she earned a degree in speech and drama. She worked as a teacher for a couple of years before hooking up with the Wayne B. Sewell Production company with whom she produced amateur plays in schools and rural areas.
In 1936, she met 'an amusing old mountain woman' while touring in Alabama. It was that meeting that inspired Sarah to develop the alter ego we all now recognize as Minnie Pearl. In November of 1940 she auditioned for the Grand Ole Opry and was allowed to appear on the late evening show. The audience reaction to this lady on stage wearing a cheap cotton dress, and a wide-brimmed hat that still had the price label attached was tremendous, and Minnie Pearl was on the Opry to stay.
With her familiar opening of "How-Dee", corny jokes, and "bad" singing, Minnie grew to become a legend in her own time.
She appeared on the first country show to play Carnegie Hall, New York (she returned with a second show in 1961),and has appeared on all major network radio and television shows. She recorded for several labels and scored a top 10 hit in 1966 with 'Giddyup Go - Answer', the woman's reply to Red Sovine's country number 1.
In 1975 Minnie was elected into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Her plaque reads: 'Humor is the least recorded but certainly one of the most important aspects of live country music.' In addition to her many country music awards, in 1992 she was also presented with the National Medal of Arts by President Bush, and in 1994, she was inducted into the National Comedy Hall Of Fame.
Health concerns began in the early
80's as she was diagnosed with breast cancer. By 1990 she had survived a double
mastectomy and was living with a pacemaker. All the while she never forgot
about her Opry commitments and continued to do shows until June 14th, 1991.
Three days later she suffered a stroke and stopped performing. Her
condition slowly worsened, and after yet another stroke she passed away on March
© 2000 Eddie Bear Productions