Happy birthday Kitty Wells!

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Kitty Wells (August 30, 1919—July 16, 2012) was an American country music singer. Her most notable hit was "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels," a controversial response to Hank Thompson's "The Wild Side of Life." Wells paved the way for women in country music, inspiring the likes of Tammy Wynette, Patsy Cline, and Loretta Lynn.

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Wells was born Ellen Muriel Deason in Nashville, Tennessee to Charles and Myrtle Deason. Her parents were both musicians and she learned to sing at a young age. By the age of 14, her father had taught her how to play guitar. She, her sisters, and a cousin formed The Deason Sisters and began appearing on radio in 1936.

 

Just one year later, she married Johnny Wright. Wright and Wells began performing together along with Wright's sister, Louise, calling themselves Johnny Wright & the Harmony Girls. Louise's husband, Jack Anglin, joined the band in 1939, and they renamed themselves the Tennessee Hillbillies. Before long, they had renamed themselves again The Tennessee Mountain Boys.

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When Anglin was drafted in 1942, Wells and Wright performed as a duo. This was the first time she began going by the name Kitty Wells. When Anglin returned from the war, he and Wright performed as a duo called Johnny & Jack, with Wells sometimes accompanying as a backup singer. In 1949, Johnny & Jack landed a recording contract with RCA, and Wells recorded some of her own gospel tracks the same year.

But it wasn't until 1952 that Wells scored her first hit with "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels." The song was hugely controversial in the country music world, due to its lyrics in defense of women who stray from their husbands. Wells sang, "It's a shame that all the blame is on us women." Despite being banned on a number of radio stations, the song reached No. 1 on the charts and remained there for six weeks. She was the first female solo act to reach that spot on the charts.

 

Many more hits followed, including "One by One," which she sang with Red Foley. Others included "Heartbreak U.S.A.," "Day into Night," "Will Your Lawyer Talk to God," and "It's All Over But the Crying."

 

 

Despite the fact that her lyrics described contentious aspects of relationships between men and women, she and her husband had a very stable one. The two toured and performed together regularly, also appearing frequently on the radio program the Grand Ole Opry. She continued to produce hit singles throughout the 1960s, and though her popularity waned in the 1970s, she remained a force in the country music world. She inspired the like of Tammy Wynette, Patsy Cline, and Loretta Lynn.

 

By 1969, Wells was established as one of the most popular female country singers. She and her husband hosted a syndicated television show called The Kitty Wells/Johnnie Wright Family Show. In the late 1970s, Wells and Wright formed their own record label, Rubocca Records, through which they released several albums. They also opened and ran the Family Country Junction Museum and Studio from 1983 to 2000.

In 1991, Wells received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

Additional Info

  • Birthday Date: Saturday, 30 August 2014
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