Tuesday, July 17, 2012

"Queen of Country Music" Kitty Wells Passes Away at 92

Kitty Wells' death at 92 yesterday was probably best summed up by another legend in country music, one Mrs. Loretta Lynn: "Kitty Wells will always be the greatest female country singer of all times. She was my hero. If I had never heard of Kitty Wells, I don't think I would have been a singer myself. I wanted to sound just like her, but as far as I am concerned, no one will ever be as great as Kitty Wells. She truly is the Queen of Country Music."

The very first female country super-celebrity of her time,  she garnered 35 Billboard Top Ten records and 81 charted singles. From her bio:

Kitty Wells, the "Queen of Country Music", was born Ellen Muriel Deason, in Nashville, Tennessee on August 30, 1919. She created the role for all other female country singers. "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels" recorded in 1952, was her first number one song nand she was the first female to sell a million records and reach number one in the country field. For 14 consecutive years she was voted the nation's number one "Country Female Artist" by all of the trade publications such as: Billboard, Cashbox, Record World and Downbeat Magazine. No other Country female artist has ever topped her achievements.

In 1935, Kitty joined her sisters Mae and Jewel along with her cousin Bessie Choate, forming the group known as the Deason sisters. They appeared on an early morning radio station in Nashville, WSIX in 1936.

In 1937, Kitty married Johnny Wright , who is also a legend in Country Music. He was part of the famous duo Johnny and Jack. Jack Anglin, Johnny's duet partner was married to Johnny's sister, Louise. They began a career in country entertainment that has spanned over 60 years. Kitty and Johnny have three children, Ruby, Bobby and Sue.

Kitty was given the name Kitty Wells, by her husband Johnny Wright in 1943. Johnny got the name from the old folk ballad recorded by the Pickard Family, entitled "Sweet Kitty Wells". Johnny and Kitty made appearances in the early years on radio stations in Raleigh, North Carolina (WPTF), Knoxville, Tennessee (KNOX), Bluefield, West Virginia (WCHS, Decatur, Georgia (WEAS) and at the Louisana Hayride in Shreveport, Louisiana (KWKH). Kitty's first recording session was for RCA Records in 1947 when she recorded some gospel songs, such as "Gathering Flowers for the Master's Bouquet" and "How Far Is Heaven". Kitty re-recorded "How Far Is Heaven" two more times on Decca Records, once with daughter then age 9, Carol Sue.

Kitty was about to quit show biz and stay at home with her three children, but God had another plan. Paul Cohen, then A&R for Decca Records, was looking for a female singer to record the answer to Hank Thompson's number one hit, "The Wild Side Of Live". He asked Johnny if Kitty would be interesed in recording, "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels", Kitty said she would do it so she could make the money off of the recording session. Even though the Grand Ole Opry banned the song and she was not allowed to perform it on the air at the time, the song became a million seller. The rest is history, thus beginning the sensational career of Miss Kitty Wells. Her duet with Red Foley,"One By One" remained on the charts for almost a year. Kitty signed an unheard of "lifetime" contract with Decca Records in 1959. She remained on Decca until 1975 when she released one album on Capricorn Records. On this session, Kitty was backed by some members of the infamous "Allman Brothers Band". In 1979, Johnny and Kitty formed their own label, Ruboca Records, (named after there three children, Ruby, Bobby and Carol Sue) and managed by son-in-law, John Sturdivant. Kitty had her last solo Top Ten Single on Ruboca at age 60 with, "Thank You For The Roses".

Family has always been an important part of the Wells/Wright team. They have always included their children as a part of their tour from the time they were able to walk on stage. After Jack Anglin's death in March of 1963, Johnny decided to make the show a"family" show and in 1965, brought Bobby back from California to join the show permanently. In the late sixties and early seventies, Kitty and Johnny had their own Family TV Show which featured Kitty, Johnny, son Bobby, daughters Ruby and Sue, and longtime friend Bill Phillips. They have also recorded not only on the family albums, but have had careers in their own right. Ruby not only recorded solo on RCA and RIC Records, but also as a part of the Nita (Nita Carter), Rita (Rita Robbins) and Ruby trio. She and sister Sue recorded for the Cadence Record label as the Wright Sisters. Bobby not only has had a successful recording career with Decca, ABC and United Artist Records, but also was a professional actor. He played the part of Willie, the Tennessee moonshiner, on the popular TV series, "McHale's Navy". Kitty and Johnny now have 8 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

1 comment:

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