She was born Margaret Ebey in 1935 in Coushatta, Louisiana. As a young child, she was influenced by blues and gospel music. In 1949, at the age of 13, she married Shelby Singleton. They worked at a munitions plant near Shreveport, Louisiana during the Korean War. She began to play guitar and write songs as a teenager after the birth of her first child, Stephen Singleton, in 1950. She had her second son, Sidney Singleton, in 1955.
In 1957, she signed with Starday Records, and released her first single that same year called "One Step (Nearer To You)". The flip side of the single was called "Not What He's Got". Both of these songs were self-penned. In 1958, she made her radio and professional debut on Louisiana Hayride. That same year, she released another single called "Nothing But True Love", also written by Singleton. This single was more successful, becoming a minor hit on the country music chart, reaching the top 25. She regularly appeared on Louisiana Hayride before moving to Jubilee USA in 1960.
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