Maine Country Music Legend Betty Cody Dies

Jul 3, 2014

Betty Cody with her then-husband Hal Lone Pine.
Credit Library of Congress

Maine Country Music legend Betty Cody has died. Cody was 92, and is being remembered as the state's most recognized female singer, who opted out of her own career, to nurture a very musical family.

Betty Cody was born Rita Cote in Sherbrooke, Quebec, one of 11 children. The family moved to Auburn when she was young, and she learned to sing, mostly in French, in Catholic school.

Her professional singing career began after marrying musician Harold Breau, who performed under the stage name Hal Lone Pine. The two performed together, and she took her own stage name - Betty Cody. In the early 1950's she was signed to RCA records.

"She was the number one country singer to ever go out of the state of Maine," says Slim Andrews, who chairs the board of directors of the Maine Country Music Hall of Fame, into which Betty Cody was inducted in 1979. "She could have been the next biggest star after Kitty Wells."

Could have been because she turned down an offer from Colonel Tom Parker, as her son, guitarist Denny Breau, recalls.

"Colonel Parker, Elvis' manager, was trying to get her to sign on and was gong to make her a star," Breau says. "And it involved leaving the kids behind for six months, and she said, 'Nah..I'm done.'  And we went back to Maine and she took care of us. And she was a wonderful, wonderful mom."

Cody, who by the time had split from her husband, took a job in a Lewiston shoe shop, and raised three of the Breau's four sons. Denny Breau says she never spoke of her decision again.

"No, she never did. We never even talked about it. In fact, if it wasn't for me finding a letter that was from Colonel Parker, I don't think she ever would have told me, you know?" he laughs.

Another son, the late Lenny Breau, stayed with his father, and would go on to become a virtuoso jazz guitarist. Lenny Breau was murdered in California in 1984. The case has never been solved.

Betty Cody continued to perform locally, even within the last few years.