Cher mother, Georgia Holt, passed away on December 10 at age 96. Her daughter shared the news on Twitter with a simple, sad sentence: “Mom is gone.” It was Georgia who first instilled in Cher a love of the performing arts. While Cher and her sister were growing up, Georgia was an aspiring actress — and at age 86, she released a successful country album! It’s called Honky Tonk Woman.
Remembering Georgia Holt
Georgia Holt was born Jackie Jean Crouch in Kensett, Arkansas in 1921. Her mother was just 13 years old at the time, her father 21. They were separated so Georgia bounced between them, moving around all the time. She estimated that she attended 17 junior highs alone! But there was one constant in Georgia’s chaotic childhood: music.
Georgia’s father taught her to sing and play guitar, and by the time she was six she’d been featured on the radio in Oklahoma City. At age 10, she sang with bandleader Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys. From there, Georgia transitioned into talent contests and beauty pageants.
Holt wanted to move to Hollywood. But her dreams were put on pause after giving birth to a daughter in 1946. That little girl’s name? Cherilyn. (The abbreviation came later.) Georgia was 19 at the time and decided to marry Cher’s father, Johnny Sarkisian. They briefly lived in Scranton, Pennsylvania together but struggled there to make end’s meet. After just a year, Georgia filed for divorce and headed off to Los Angeles — with her new baby.
There, Georgia began acting under the stage name Georgia Pelham. She won a scholarship to acting school and appeared in some minor TV roles. She also married again, to Chris Alcaide, but that didn’t last. Then Georgia faced a crushing career blow. After securing the lead role in The Asphalt Jungle, the offer was revoked — and given to a little-known starlet named Norma Jean Baker… the future Marilyn Monroe. The 1950 noir was a star-making turn for Monroe. Meanwhile, Georgia continued to struggle.
She married another man, John Southall, and had a daughter with him: Georganne. But Southall was an alcoholic and the family was forced to move on again. Georgia then married to Joe Collins but they split too, in 1961. Finally, she married a wealthy banker named Gilbert La-Piere, who stuck around for a while, legally adopted both girls. (Georganne, now an actress, goes by the name Georganne La-Piere.) But in 1964, they broke up and Georgia took back up with Cher’s father — marrying him again in 1965!
Amid all the family drama, the teenaged Cher became something of a rebel. At just 17, she ran off with an older musician named Sonny Bono… of course, the rest is history. And despite those tough years, Cher and Georgia remained close throughout her lifetime. Cher explored their unique relationship in 2013, for the Lifetime documentary Dear Mom, Love Cher. Watch clips from that above.
As Cher experienced worldwide success during the ’70s, Georgia, too, found her footing. Though it took one more failed marriage — that time to Hamilton T. Holt — she finally did fall in love. Georgia began dating a man named Craig Spencer. He remained with her until her death in 2022 and they never married.
He is also 29 years Georgia’s junior. Like mother, like daughter.
‘Honky Tonk Woman’
In 2013, Georgia Holt released a country album called Honky Tonk Woman. At that time, she was 86 years old. However, the songs were recorded during the 1980s — the tapes were lost for decades in Holt’s garage! According to The Guardian, the original tracks on Honky Tonk Woman were recorded with members of Elvis Presley’s band. But as Cher explained on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, musical director Paul Mirkovich put new music behind Holt’s voice before the 2013 release.
The album also includes a duet with Cher, “I’m Just Your Yesterday,” which the mother-daughter duo performed on Ellen. As you can hear, the pair sound nearly identical! It’s clear where Cher got her trademark twang from.
Rest in peace, Georgia Holt.