The life of a performer is often a tough one and a husband and wife team probably faces added complications, but it can be a rewarding experience too. That’s why it probably surprised country music fans in the late 1950s when popular duo Lulu Belle and Scotty left the business behind and took an unusual detour — to new careers in politics and academia.
When Myrtle Eleanor Cooper first came to radio’s popular National Barn Dance show in the 1930s, the North Carolina teenager performed under the stage name of Lulu Belle. She was a Minnie Pearl-style comedienne/singer who soon became an audience favorite while working with Red Foley. But according to some sources, Foley’s wife thought the pair were a little too close, so Lulu Belle was then matched up with fellow North Carolina native Skyland ‘Scotty’ Wiseman, a talented songwriter and musician in his own right. They not only became a hit with fans but also with each other, marrying in 1934.
For more than two decades the couple starred on the show, doing an act that often included performing Wiseman’s songs and making hits of a few, including “Remember Me” and their biggest, “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You.” (A song that I remember hearing on our record player while I was growing up, but I think it was a later record by Gene Autry.) They also appeared in small musical parts in a number of movies and made records too, but radio was better suited to their style.
By the late 1950s they’d had enough of the rat race and were ready for a change. They pretty much quit the music business (although both would occasionally still make records) and went in different directions professionally. Lulu Belle — back to Myrtle now — became a community activist and eventually entered politics, serving as a state representative. Scotty went back to school and earned an advanced degree, then became a teacher, did a little farming, and eventually became a banker. He died in 1981, and two years later his widow married an old friend. She died in 1999.