Like many country music stars, Melba Montgomery — who recently turned 78 and is still active — can look back on a career that was remarkably diversified. She’s a talented songwriter who has also found a lot of success as a singer, not only as a part of several different duos but also as a soloist. In fact, she enjoyed a number of hits while singing alongside George Jones, Gene Pitney, and Charlie Louvin, although her only #1 record was her solo on “No Charge” in 1974.
Born in tiny Iron City, Tennessee, but raised in nearby Florence, Alabama, young Melba Montgomery had plenty of musical opportunities while growing up — her father was a talented fiddler and guitarist who also taught singing. By the time she was grown she was ready to make her try at a musical career, and it started in the late 1950s when her and her brother won an amateur contest on Nashville’s WSM, the home of the legendary Grand Ole Opry. One of the judges, country star Roy Acuff, was so impressed by her singing that he hired her for his stage show. (Apparently her brother didn’t make the cut.) Melba proved to be a popular addition to the show, and spent several years with the group before going solo.
In the early 1960s she began the first of her many successful collaborations, teaming up with country star George Jones and quickly striking pay dirt with a song she’d written, “We Must Have Been Out of Our Minds.” The duo continued to work together for several years, making countless successful records, although both also kept their solo careers going. Later in the decade Melba also recorded an album with pop star Gene Pitney.
By the 1970s Melba was doing duets with Charlie Louvin, and the twosome enjoyed several high-charting records, including their biggest seller, “Something to Brag About.” Within a couple of years she’d renewed her focus on her solo career, and had mixed results before recording her 1974 chart-topper, “No Charge,” a song written by the legendary Harlan Howard. Its motherhood message struck a chord with record buyers and helped keep her performing and making records, but in subsequent years things slowed down. By the late 1980s she was devoting most of her efforts to a very successful career as a songwriter, only occasionally performing for her fans. At one point she even published a cookbook of family recipes, and remains active even now.