It’s quite fascinating how Kitty Wells single-handedly changed the face of country music by becoming its first big female solo star, expressing frank lyrics from a woman’s point of view.
Kitty Wells songs about the real problems of postwar life and the sad side of domesticity inspired a number of other country singers over the next two decades, such as Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, Dottie West, and many others – and definitely led to record companies opening their doors to other female artists.
Truly, Kitty Wells had made a bold move. Check out these fun facts to celebrate her life and career.
1. She’s a native of Nashville, Tennessee.
Born Ellen Muriel Deason on August 30, 1919, the country icon was raised in a musical family. She started singing as a child and learned guitar from her father, who was a country musician. Meanwhile, her mother was a gospel singer.
2. She briefly worked as a disc jockey in Shreveport, Louisiana.
For a time, Wells participated in The Louisiana Hayride’s premier broadcast under the stage name Little Rag Doll, wherein she spun records and sold quilting supplies.
3. She married her fellow aspiring country music star.
At the age of 18, Wells married cabinetmaker Johnnie Wright, who also aspired to be a country star. For a brief time, the couple sang with Wells’ sister Louise Wright and toured as Johnnie Right and the Harmony Girls. It was also Wright who chose the stage name “Kitty Wells” from a folk song called “Sweet Kitty Wells.”
4. She was the first female country singer to score a solo hit on the top of the country charts.
In 1952, Wells’ recording of “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels” shattered the rules of the male-dominated realm of country music. While it was seen as incredibly controversial to blame unfaithful men for creating unfaithful women, the song ranked No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart. This made Wells the first woman to top the said chart.
5. She is the first female country artist to have her own syndicated television show.
Countless opportunities followed Wells’ initial breakthrough. In 1968, The Kitty Wells Show aired and ran for one year.
6. She’s a mother of three.
Wells and Wright were blessed with three children: Ruby, Carol Sue, and Bobby. They all became part of the Kitty Wells-Johnny Wright Family Show and continued touring until the couple announced their retirement in 2000. On July 16, 2012, the country icon died at her Nashville home of complications from a stroke. She was 92.
7. She once toured with Roy Acuff.
Before Wells hit superstardom, she and her husband toured with Roy Acuff, who told Wright not to make Wells his show’s headliner as he believed women don’t sell records.
Isn’t it amazing how Kitty Wells disproved the acceptable country music standards of her time?