Kitty Wells‘ “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels” has been credited for paving the way for generations of female country artists – especially Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, and Dolly Parton, including all the songs where women call out unfaithful men.
Back in the day, many country radio listeners complain about the lack of airtime for women on the genre’s airwaves today. Women were once almost completely ignored by country radio’s male tastemakers. Country music, at that point in time, was strictly a man’s world. But Wells broke such huge barriers in 1952 when “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels” became the first No. 1 Billboard country hit for a solo female artist.
A Daring Song To Make In the 1950s
Written by songwriter J. D. “Jay” Miller, “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels” is a response to Hank Thompson’s 1952 hit “Wild Side of Life,” a break-up song that very much took the men’s side. Thompson’s song clearly placed the burden on the bar-hopping woman for her totally unacceptable behavior. It chastised a “honky tonk angel” for giving up her chances of a married life and hanging around in “the places where the wine and liquor flow.”
But, as a songwriter, Miller was not having any of it. The moment he heard Thompson’s blockbuster hit come on the car radio, he immediately pulled off to the roadside, grabbed a notepad and pencil, and wrote a woman’s response.
He enlisted the help of Kitty Wells to sing a song that would put part of the blame on men in the same melody, but more up-tempo, “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels.” Citing the original song, it counters that for every woman who had been led astray, it was a man who led her there. Miller and Wells also expressed frustration about how women are always made scapegoats for the man’s faults in a given relationship.
“It’s a shame that all the blame is on us women. It’s not true that only you men feel the same. From the start most every heart that’s ever broken was because there always was a man to blame. It wasn’t God who made honky tonk angels. As you said in the words of your song. Too many times, married men think they’re still single. That has caused many a good girl to go wrong,” the song goes.
When Wells first heard Miller’s lyrics, she was shocked. The song was just the opposite of the image she had always tried to project. Still, in the face of opposition, Miller and Wells – through Decca Records – forged ahead, and in doing so, they changed the world.
One Of The Most Controversial Songs In The Century
“It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels” absolutely created some buzz after its release. It did not only offend the male-dominated country-music scene but as well as the public at large. So, it was no longer a surprise when the song received plenty of resistance.
In fact, the NBC radio network banned the song for being “suggestive.” Wells was also prohibited from performing it on the Grand Ole Opry and NBC’s “Prince Albert” radio program. Yet, Wells struck a chord with several country fans.
Years later, Wells revealed in one interview that she was surprised over the success and endurance of “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels.” She said, “Women never had hit records in those days. Very few of them even recorded. I couldn’t believe it happened.”
You can listen to Kitty Wells’ most daring song in the video below.
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