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Kitty Wells

One of the few country stars born in Nashville, Kitty Wells (born Muriel Deason) had a string of hits from the '50s to the early '70s that earned her the title Queen of Country Music. She made her radio debut on Nashville's WSIX, where she met her future husband, Johnnie Wright of Johnnie & Jack. She began touring as part of Johnnie & Jack's show; Wright gave her the stage name, taken from an old folk ballad called "I'm A-Goin' to Marry Kitty Wells." Wells recorded unsuccessfully for RCA before switching to Decca, where she hit with 1952's "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels," a response to Hank Thompson's "The Wild Side of Life." Its controversial pre-feminist lyrics, which blamed unfaithful men for creating unfaithful women, paved the way for Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette and established Wells as the first major female country star. Wells recorded a number of answer songs and remakes, but she has top-notch original material as well, including some of Harlan Howard's earliest hits.

Wells 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. The group began singing on the station in 1936. The following year, she married Johnnie Wright. Shortly after their marriage, Wells and Wright began performing together along with his sister, Louise Wright; they called themselves Johnnie Wright & the Harmony Girls. Jack Anglin, Louise's husband, joined the group in 1939, and they renamed the band the Tennessee Hillbillies, which would eventually evolve into the Tennessee Mountain Boys.

Anglin was drafted into the Army in 1942. Following his departure, Wright and Wells performed as a duo; it was at this time that she adopted the Kitty Wells stage name. When Anglin returned from the Army, he and Wright formed the Johnnie & Jack duo. Wells would tour with the duo, occasionally performing backup vocals. In 1946 and 1947, the duo had a regular spot at the Grand Ole Opry, and Wells rarely performed with them. However, she did sing with the pair when they joined the Louisiana Hayride in 1948.

The Louisiana Hayride helped Johnnie & Jack land a record contract with RCA Records in 1949. That same year, Wells recorded some gospel tracks -- featuring Johnnie & Jack as instrumental support -- for RCA, but they were unsuccessful. Following those recordings, Wells was more or less retired for the next few years. In 1952, Paul Cohen, an executive at Decca Records, approached Wells to record "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels." Wells recorded the song and it became a smash hit, reaching number one in the summer and staying in that position for six weeks. Later in 1952, she joined the Grand Ole Opry.

"It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels" was followed by "Paying for That Back Street Affair," a response to Webb Pierce's "Back Street Affair." The single reached number six in the spring of 1953, helping to establish a permanent place at the top of the charts for Wells. For the rest of the '50s, she hit the Top Ten with regularity, racking up a total of 23 Top Ten hits. In the early '60s, her career dipped slightly, but she continued to have Top Ten hits frequently. During the late '60s and '70s, Wells' streak of hits evaporated, but she managed to have a string of minor hits and remained a popular concert attraction.

In 1976, Wells was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, and with good reason. Kitty Wells broke down the doors for female country singers, paving the way for artists like Patsy Cline, Tammy Wynette, and Loretta Lynn. During the '80s, her activity slowed -- in addition to running a museum outside of Nashville, she toured with her husband, Johnnie, and frequently appeared on the Grand Ole Opry. In 1991, she was given a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Grammys. In July 2012 she died at home in Madison, Tennessee, from complications of a stroke; Kitty Wells was 92 years old. ~ Brian Mansfield & Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi
full bio

Comments

She was a AWESOME lady. I had the pleasure of meeting her and visited with her a few times. My dad has been named her # 1 fan by Kitty Well and her family. He would visit her and at her home. She was such a class act. Always down to earth and very humble. She is missed! RIP Kitty Wells. You will always be the queen of country music! :)
A true class act!! The real queen of country!!!!
gramlich_9
kitty wells brought me to some of the most powerful songs in country on Pandora rAdio
Kitty is one of my favorite female singers.
i love kitty wells
solobase
KITTY WELLS
Kittty is my favorite no one can do it she could. Love kitty wells
She is the most beautiful voice that I can listen to all day long. She is my most favorite woman singer.
I love kitty- she was the best. And always will be
kitty, loretta, patsy had distinct voices, not like today's cookie cutter singers
arlettes317
anne
Kitty Wells is among the greatest country singers. I love her songs. I will always listen to them
i love about all of the country singer .
Right on robdem11 ! The true queen of Country.
The Queen is dead, but long will live the Queen, as long as i and any person who truly loves and understands true American music lives. I'm 66 and plan to keep her memory for another 60 years. Someone has to!
raoppman8
Wonderful old time country
07 16 12 a sad in country music a great lady left us R.I.P.
RIP Miss Kitty,you;re back with Johnny and singing with the angels
kitty wells age 92 died today well be miss billie
she makes me want to drink a beer right now lol great music !
elmerearl
great
you know kitty wells really was the queen of country
nice artist
love kitty wells
You truly are the Queen of country music
kitty wells is my great grand mother
Kitty Wells is a wonderful part of America in an era that produced the best in country music. My teen years were spent in the 1950's listening on AM radio to Kitty Wells and all of the country western singers of that time. A tear comes to my eyes when I think I'll never be able to go back. Ah, memories...a r e n ' t they great !
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she is the gratist
I agree I love Kitty Wells and would like to find the song how far is heaven by her
loved her.she is still great her songs will live forver.
Kitty Wells has been a favorite since I was a little girl. and believe me....that was a long time ago. :)
lexluthier49 1
Makin Believe is the single greatest female country song ever.
She will always be my love.
Kitty paved the way for all of the female country singers. I believe she's the real "Queen of Country Music".
sunbum14
Kitty Wells is by far this GREATEST Female country singer of all times in my mind.
sail_crazy44
In around 1963 I went on a DE for over 30 days and all they had onboard was Kitty Wells and when that tour was over i loved Kitty Wells and i stll do to this day. I had a chance to see her in person but never went and am still sad over that decision.
alsites2001
The one & only country singer...gro w i n g up in wv,,them old songs bring back memeries ..got most of her records..Her gospel was the greatest..
still see her on rfd tv ,,looks good at 90 + also she has been married over 70 years..
Not only is she the queen of country music, she the queen of all woman singer.
One of country's best
Listening to Kiiy Wells reminds me of growing up in FL, listening to The Grand Ol' Uproar, At the original Ryman, on WSM as it faded in and out. I loved that hillbilly music, as folks once called it. I couldn't listen to Miss Kitty Wells and others on the Opry without smiling in complete contentment.
Kitty is one of the greatest
Kitty Wells rules
If you think Kitty is good, keep an ear out for Meghan McCoy, she sings for some crazy honky-tonk band in sacramento, she is f**king amazing!!!!! ! ! ! ! ! ! !
I will put Kitty Wells up against any and all female artist. Throw up a song and I will put up a song by Kitty. Kitty will beat the artist hands down.
One off the best
i love kitty weels i have been lisening to her since the erly 60s i think i have all of her music. ron lav
Icould listen to kitty wells all day long I started listening to her in 1963 when I was on tractor disking farm land I love her.There will never be another kitty wells.
kitty was one of the best in her day
wallis_t
I started in the sixties buying here albums. Ihave 26 of her albums. Kitty is true country.
lrm23936
none of these little cookie-cutte r girls in country today would even exist without this woman kicking down the honkytonk doors!
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