December 12

Brenda Lee: The Powerful, Cheery Singer from the 60’s

On December 11, 1944, a bright young star was born in Atlanta Georgia. Her name, Brenda Lee, which was later on changed to “Little Miss Dynamite” when she made it as a successful pop star during her younger years. As she grew older, she eventually transitioned into a successful country artist.

A look back at Brenda Lee’s humble beginnings

Brenda Lee grew up in poverty. She had to share a three-room house that did not have running water with her siblings, while her parents were often out looking for jobs. Her father was a farmer’s son, while her mother was from a working-class family based in Georgia.

Lee’s earliest exposure to music was when she was two years old. Her family owned a battery-powered radio that left a huge impact on Brenda even when she was only a little baby. When she turned two, she could already follow after the songs she heard on the radio through whistling. Later on, her sister and her mother would take her to the local candy shop, where she would earn treats or coins after she was made to stand on the counter to sing.

During Brenda Lee’s time at the Baptist Church, she sang solos every Sunday. At a very young age, people were immediately drawn to Lee’s singing talent. It was clear to the many people who’ve heard her voice that she was a star in the making, a musical prodigy. When she turned six, Lee won a local singing contest. It was sponsored by different elementary schools. The prize was a live appearance and performance on Starmakers Revue, a radio show based in Atlanta. After her dad’s passing in 1953, she became her family’s breadwinner. She would earn money just by performing at various events and shows on TV and on the radio.

One of her most regular appearances then was at the TV Ranch country music show on Atlanta’s WAGA-TV. She also made an appearance at The Peach Blossom Special on WJAT-AIM.

Brenda’s first big break and the continuation of her colorful musical career

After Red Foley was persuaded by a disc jockey to listen to Brenda Lee’s singing, he was immediately taken aback by her magnificent voice. Like everyone else who has witnessed and heard Brenda’s beautiful voice, he could not believe how much power came from a tiny girl like her. From there, Lee was made to perform Jambalaya without any rehearsals. The night of her performance, the crowd loved her so much that they made her sing three more songs. Two months later, on July 30, 1956, Decca Records offered her a recording contract.

Some of Brenda Lee’s biggest hits include Sweet Nothin’s, Jambalaya, Alone Am I, I want to be Wanted, Emotions, Break It To Me Gently, You Can Depend On Me, As Usual, Rockin’ Around A Christmas Tree, I’m Sorry, and Everybody Loves Me But You.

During the mid-1960’s, Brenda Lee faced a bit of a hiatus and had undergone depression after her longtime manager, Dub Allbritten, died. Her condition worsened that at one point, she was rushed to the hospital due to fatal blood clots. Thanks to a successful surgery, Brenda was slowly able to make her way back to the music scene. She recorded Nobody Wins during the latter part of 1974. The song was the first song written by songwriter, Kris Kristopherson. The song immediately reached the top ten on the Country Charts. Before everyone knew it, she was back in the spotlight once again. Brenda Lee went back on the road to tour and perform. She was even awarded by The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences as well as The Georgia Music Hall of Fame.

Very rarely do we encounter such magnificent and one-of-a-kind artist like Brenda Lee. Just being able to listen to her awe-inspiring performances is a miracle and the way she rose up from her humble beginnings to where she is at present shows that wonderful things await those who relentlessly go after the things they are passionate about.


Brenda Lee

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