Friday, August 30, 2013

August 30: The Queen of Country Music, Kitty Wells was born on this date in 1919...

... she died on July 16, 2012 after suffering a stroke.


Kitty Wells was born Ellen Muriel Deason in 1919 in Nashville, Tennessee, one of the few country singers born in Nashville. She began singing as a child, learning guitar from her father. As a teenager, she sang with her sisters, who performed under the name the Deason Sisters on a local radio station beginning in 1936.

At the age of 18 she married Johnnie Wright, a cabinet-maker who aspired to country-music stardom. Wells sang with Wright and his sister Louise Wright; the three toured as Johnnie Right and the Harmony Girls. Soon Wright met Jack Anglin, who married Louise and became part of the band, which became known first as the Tennessee Hillbillies and then the Tennessee Mountain Boys.

Wright and Wells performed as a duo; it was at this time she adopted "Kitty Wells" as her stage name. When Anglin returned from the Army, he and Wright formed the Johnnie & Jack duo.

Wells would tour with the pair, occasionally performing backup vocals. On "Louisiana Hayride," she performed with her husband's duo. Wells, however, did not sing on their records until signing with RCA Victor in 1949 releasing some of her first singles, including "Death At The Bar" and "Don't Wait For The Last Minute To Pray,” neither of which charted.

While these early records gained some notice, promoters still weren't keen on promoting female singers, and therefore Wells was dropped from the label in 1950. In 1952, Paul Cohen, an executive at Decca Records, approached Wells to record "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels.” Wells was disenchanted with her career prospects and was considering retirement, but agreed to the session because of the $125 union scale recording payment.

"It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels" was an answer song to Hank Thompson's No. 1 smash, "The Wild Side of Life,” and its lyrical treatment of seductive, wayward women. Wells' single retorted, "It's a shame that all the blame is on us women." The record's message was controversial at the time, and was banned by many radio stations. It was also temporarily banned from the Grand Ole Opry.

Nevertheless, it took off during the summer of 1952, and sold more than 800,000 copies in its initial release. It became the first single by a female singer to peak at No. 1 in the eight-year history of the country music chart, where it remained for six weeks.

Because of her major breakthrough, Wells received a membership to the Grand Ole Opry, which had originally banned the single. Kitty’s Top 10 hits continued until the mid-1960s, inspiring a long list of female country singers who came to prominence in the 1960s.

Wells ranks as the sixth most successful female vocalist in the history of Billboard's country charts, according to historian Joel Whitburn's book The Top 40 Country Hits, behind Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, Reba McEntire, Tammy Wynette, and Tanya Tucker.

In 1976, she was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. In 1991, she became the third country music artist, after Roy Acuff and Hank Williams, and the eighth woman to receive the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

Wells' accomplishments earned her the nickname The Queen of Country Music.

For more about Kitty Wells, visit her Website at -


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