Elvis Presley always said that one of his strongest influences was a certain lady who specialized in gospel music (which he loved), and the King sometimes even joined her in duets in the early years. In fact, Martha Carson eventually tried her hand at pop music too and had some impact on rock and roll, but is now mostly remembered for her spiritual side.
Born in rural Kentucky as Irene Amburgey, she was still in her teens in the late 1930s when she joined the cast of radio’s popular Barn Dance program at WSB in Atlanta. Her sisters were part of the act too, and the three were given the cornpone stage names Minnie, Marthie, and Mattie. After marrying musician James Carson and teaming up with him as part of a duo called the Barn Dance Sweethearts, Marthie (Irene) pretty much became known as Martha Carson from that point on — even after she later divorced him.
But that wasn’t until 1950, and by then a lot had happened. The couple had continued to entertain throughout the 1940s and had even cut some records, but by the end of the decade Martha was ready to go solo in more ways than one. Unfortunately, Capitol Records was not willing to let her make new records unless she teamed up with a male singer to replace her ex-husband. Thankfully, Nashville-based music business pro Fred Rose stepped in and helped her get a chance, and she soon followed with a record of a song she’d written and titled “Satisfied,” a gospel piece that answered critics of her divorce. The song included backup by her sister Pearl and Chet Atkins on guitar, and gradually built in popularity until it became her top seller.
During the 1950s she continued to do well, turning out a number of good records and working alongside guys like Ferlin Husky and, of course, Elvis Presley. She also remarried, hitching up with a promoter named Xavier Cosse who soon moved her to a better deal with RCA, and she followed with successful records like “Journey to the Sky,” and “This Ole House.” They also relocated to New York and she was able to make appearances on a number of TV variety shows before her career began to gradually wind down. Although she returned to Nashville and continued to entertain for the next couple of decades, she was pretty much retired by the 1980s. She died at age 83 in 2004.