Reprint ~ Loblolly Volume 20 No. 2 Summer 1993

The Innocent Charm of Linda Davis


Linda Davis today! Photo courtesy of Linda Davis

 “Polish Hardens Innocent Charm”
By Sheila Taylor
From the Fort Worth Star – Telegram – January 1989

I wish you could have seen her then, six or seven or seven ago, when she was Miss Panola County.

She had chin – length blond hair, an elegantly slender figure and a face as fresh as Idaho.

Louisiana Hayride program from 1977 courtesy of the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

But even so, it was her voice that really would have touched you. That was something else altogether. It was strong, mature and sultry, especially so for a young woman who couldn’t have given out of high school for more than a year or two at most,

I was writing a story for which I picked more or less at random one of the Miss Texas contestants to follow the final week of competition. I can’t remember why I picked Miss Panola County, but I do remember that the photographer and I were delighted with the choice.

She wore the sweet charm of true naivete, and her modest family house, tucked away on a wooded, rural East Texas road, fairly vibrated with parental pride in this golden – haired  daughter.

So, did the whole town, for that matter, and it seemed as though everyone on the county tax rolls showed up for the final night of competition. Everyone plus all their cousins. That’s more like it.

Experienced pageant – watchers had told me she probably would finish in the top five but that she would not win. She lacked sophistication, a certain amount of polish, they said, and I thought they probably were right. Still, as the week wore on, I forgot all the warnings and joined the hearty band of Miss Panola County supporters. Features stories, after all, don’t cry for the objective eye of news reporting. I wanted this girl to win.

I remember so well how she looked during the talent competition. She wore a street-length dress with an almost-striking simplicity that contrasted sharply with the glittery twirling outfits, shimmery tights and beaded gowns of the other contestants.

Standing there alone on the stage, in the purest phrasing possible, she sang the first bars of “The Sweetest Thing,” starting out soft in that throaty; bluesy voice. Almost suddenly, she was a little like Miss Patsy Cline: Smokey, sultry, yet still unspoiled.

The forecasters were right: She finished in the top five, as I recall, but she didn’t win the title, and after the pageant, I didn’t see her again or hear anything about her until the other day, when I read that she was to appear on a Nashville cable network show. Eagerly, I tuned in, and there she was, all right: Miss Panola County.

But what a difference. Her hair is quite long now, bushy and frizzed out to here. She had on a skin-tight leather jumpsuit, it looked like, and dangling, jangling jewelry and vivid makeup set in stone.

Linda Davis photo from the 1993 Loblolly

She didn’t even sound the same. She rocked out with something hard-edged and rather harsh, no slow-moving ballad this time, no Smokey tones of sex or loneliness or unrequited love.

No doubt, her manager knows considerably more than I do about creating stars. No doubt, this creation was well thought out, carefully monitored and has been and will continue to be adjusted, bit by bit; no doubt, too, that’s what it takes to turn Miss Panola County into Miss Big Time.

I’ve seen a news release that tells of her almost-hits and sure-to-behits and hints and of exciting things to happen soon. I hope they do. I would love for her to become that country music star. Maybe then, she’ll walk back on stage wearing a simple, street-length dress, and maybe then, she’ll sing again straight to the audience’s soul.

Slowly, smokily, directly to the point, a little like Miss Patsy Cline. Better still, just exactly like Miss Panola County. I wish you could have seen her then, six or seven years ago.