March 31

Brenda Lee and Ronnie Shacklett: A Love That Broke Through The Shackles of Rejection

World famous recording idol Brenda Lee surprised everyone at 18 when she married her boyfriend of not (even) more than six months, Ronnie Shacklett. But to her family and management, this was beyond surprising. Marrying at her age and at the peak of her career was disappointing – to a point that no member of Brenda’s family were present at her wedding. But Brenda Lee and Ronnie Shacklett proved that they are long-lasting. This year, the couple will be celebrating 60 years of marriage, and they are definitely thriving. 

Let’s take a look back at how everything started. 

1962: The Fateful, Fitting Meeting

RELATED: Where is ‘Little Miss Dynamite’ Brenda Lee now? 

Brenda Mae Tarpley, or more popularly known for her stage name Brenda Lee, has reached milestones in her singing career earlier than everybody else. At 12, she already earned herself a nickname – ‘Little Miss Dynamite’ after she wowed everyone with her performance of “Dynamite”- a little girl with a big voice – and became the first pop artist to have a contemporary international following. 

And she really did live up to that name. 

At 13, she already had her very own hit titled “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.” Not only that, but the song also became a Christmas standard that even generations of your family are probably still singing it today. Then she became the staple name of the 1960s, charting 47 hit songs and performing rockabilly, pop, and country music. Not to mention the fact that she was ranked fourth in that decade, surpassed only by men. At four-feet-nine-inches tall, she was truly a force to be reckoned with. 

And that decade proved not only to be the prime years of her career but also of love. 

Fittingly for a world-renowned recording artist, Brenda first met the love of her life Ronnie Shacklett in a Bo Diddley and Jackie Wilson concert in November 1962. The two got acquainted and then shortly started dating. Their dating story didn’t write itself for so long – it didn’t have to – because the couple married just a few months after meeting. 

“Singing Star Brenda Lee Weds”

Brenda Lee/Ronnie Shacklett 1963Brenda Lee/Ronnie Shacklett 1963 25 Apr 1963, Thu The Tennessean (Nashville, Tennessee) Newspapers.com

That was the headline written by one Gerald Henry after news of the singer’s quiet and unannounced wedding on April 24, 1963, at the Radnor Church of Christ slipped into light. 

According to the article, Brenda Lee, 18, exchanged vows with the son of a Metropolitan councilman named Ronnie Shacklett, also 18, of 314 Elberta St., Nashville. Brenda wore a white two-piece suit, and the wedding was witnessed by members of the groom’s family. Sadly, no one from Brenda’s family came to celebrate her special day with her. It was reported that her family did not approve of the wedding and was disappointed that she married Ronnie Shacklett after less than six months of dating. 

Dub Allbritten, Brenda Lee’s manager, shared that the couple was supposed to be married after her scheduled May 2 appearance in Copacabana, New York. But apparently, the couple couldn’t wait. Then they headed over to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, where they spent a few days for their honeymoon. 

Who is Brenda Lee’s husband, Ronnie Shacklett?

Charles Ronald “Ronnie” Shacklett has remained private from the moment that he wed Brenda Lee up until now. And the only things we know about him are: First, he was around 18 when he married Brenda (which makes them almost the same age), and second, he was the son of a Metropolitan councilman married to a Mrs. Earl C. Shacklett who lived at 314 Elberta St., Nashville. 

The Life as a Couple and Building a Family

In Brenda and Ronnie’s early life as a couple, Ronnie was able to protect his wife from being exploited by dishonest managers, which led to a very successful career for Brenda. Then in 1999, Brenda underwent a surgery to remove the cyst in her vocal cords, and she had to take some time off and rest before going back to recording again. But aside from those, the two kept their love life out of the public eye. 

And that went on the same with their family. 

Brenda and Ronnie have two daughters, Jolie and Julie (who was named after Patsy Cline’s daughter), and three grandchildren Taylor, Jordan, and Charley. The only thing that was known about the family was the fact that Julie was born with a hyaline membrane disease and was not medically expected to survive. But thanks to Dr. Mildred Stalman, who also attended the births of the Kennedy children, she was saved. 

Where are Brenda Lee and Ronnie Shacklett now?

As of now, Brenda Lee is happily retired and living her life with her husband Ronnie Shacklett in their home in Nashville, Tennessee. 


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Brenda Lee, Ronnie Shacklett


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