Ellen Muriel Deason, known professionally as Kitty Wells (born August 30, 1919) is an American country music singer. Her 1952 hit recording, "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels," made her the first female country singer to top the U.S. country charts, and turned her into the first female country star. Her Top 10 hits continued up until the mid-1960s, inspiring a long list of future female country singers to come to fame in the 1960s.
Wells's success in the 1950s and 1960s was so enormous that she still ranks as the sixth most successful female vocalist in the history of the Billboard country charts according to historian Joel Whitburn's book The Top 40 Country Hits, behind Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, Reba McEntire, Tammy Wynette, and Tanya Tucker.
Wells was the third country music artist, after Roy Acuff and Hank Williams, to receive the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1991, as well as being the seventh woman and first Caucasian woman to receive the honor. In 1976, she was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. She is as of May 2008 the oldest member of the Hall of Fame. Wells's accomplishments earned her the moniker "The Queen of Country Music," a title since inherited by Reba McEntire.
1952: "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels"
In 1952, Paul Cohen, an executive at Decca Records, approached Wells to record "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels," Thinking of the $125 recording payment, Wells went into Owen Bradley's studio on May 3, 1952, to record "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels" for Decca Records. The single took off during the summer and sold more than 800,000 copies in its initial release. It also crossed over to Billboard's pop charts, hitting #27. . The song, banned by many radio stations in 1952 and was also temporarily banned from the Grand Ole Opry. It became the first single by a female Country singer to peak at #1. The song was an answer song to Hank Thompson's #1 smash, "The Wild Side of Life" and its message helped it reach #1 in 1952, where it stayed for six weeks, equivalent to the amount of time Faith Hill's "Breathe" and Carrie Underwood's "Jesus Take the Wheel" spent at the top position.
The song's sentiments are similar to 1894's "She Is More to Be Pitied than Censured," with its premise that deceitful men are responsible for fallen women. The record was controversial and received some resistance from radio executives, but audiences couldn't get enough of it. Because of her major breakthrough, Wells received a membership to the Grand Ole Opry.
1953 - 1969: Career peak
"It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels" was followed by "Paying for That Back Street Affair," a response to Webb Pierce's "Back Street Affair." The single reached number six in the spring of 1953, helping to establish a permanent place at the top of the charts for Wells. Between 1953 and 1955, Wells was popular on the Country charts, and was the only female solo artist at the time to be able to maintain her success. In 1953, Wells had two Top 10 hits with "Hey Joe" and Cheatin's a Sin." The next year, Wells partnered up with Country star, Red Foley for the duet "One by One," which peaked at #1 on the Billboard Country Chart, and became her second chart-topper. The song led to a string of hit singles from the duo within the next two decades, including 1954's "As Long as I Live," which peaked at #3. As a solo artist in 1954, Wells had two major hits with the #8 "Release Me" and the Top 15 hit, "Thou Shalt Not Steal."
Record companies were reluctant to issue albums by country's female artists until Kitty Wells proved that women could sell. Wells became the first female country singer to issue an LP, starting with 1956's Kitty Wells' Country Hit Parade, which consisted of Wells' biggest hits up to that point. She then released her first studio album in 1957 with Winner of Your Heart. Soon other female Country singers released LPs in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
"Making Believe" and "Lonely Side of Town" became chart-toppers for Wells, however not on Billboard magazine. Wells's later 1950s releases included "Searching (For Someone Like You)," "I Can't Stop Loving You," and "Amigo's Guitar," which she wrote with John Loudermilk. In 1957, Wells issued her first studio album with Winner of Your Heart. This was followed by a string of LPs issuded from, Decca Records between 1957 and 1973. She also partnered up with Webb Pierce the same year for two duet singles, including the Top 10 hit, "Oh So Many Years." The duo didn't record together again until 1964 with the Top 10 hit, "Finally." In 1959, Wells had two Top 5 hits with "Amigo's Guitar" and "Mommy for a Day." Wells was later awarded a BMI award for writing "Amigo's Guitar." Although not known much for her songwrting, Wells has won two BMI awards, including one for "Amigo's Guitar." She has published over 60 songs.
She continued to put much of herself into her songs throughout her career, inspiring other female country singers to record risky material as well. Loretta Lynn was one of her followers in this sense, when she recorded "Don't Come a Drinkin' (With Lovin' On Your Mind)" in 1967. Dolly Parton's 1968 recording "Just Because I'm a Woman," like "Honky Tonk Angels," questioned the male-female double-standard.
Wells entered the 1960s on top with songs like "Heartbreak U.S.A." and "Day into Night." "Heartbreak USA" peaked at #1 on the Billboard Country Chart and became her third and final #1 hit. The follow-up, "Day Into Night" was a Top 10 hit the same year. Owen Bradley took over as Wells' producer in the 1960s. While Bradley did produce some of the biggest-selling country crossover singers of the time period, including Patsy Cline, he did have to record some of what Nashville then called "The Old-Timers," or the "Honky-Tonkers" from the 1950s, including Webb Pierce, Ernest Tubb, and Wells. With these singers, including Wells, he steered them all into the new contemporary sound without pushing them out of their limits. Wells's sound changed slightly due to Bradley's influence, incorporating some of the new Nashville Sound into her material. The well-known Nashville Sound vocal group, The Jordanaires, can be heard backing Wells on her big country hit from 1961, "Heartbreak USA."
In the early '60s, her career dipped slightly, but she continued to have Top Ten hits frequently. In 1962, Wells had three Top 10 hits with "Will Your Lawyer Talk to God," "Unloved Wanted," and "We Missed You." Beginning in 1964, Wells' albums began to chart the Top Country Albums chart, starting with the LP, Especially for You. Some of Wells' albums peaked within the Top 10 on that chart. That same year, Wells' singles began to return to the Top 10 with "This White Circle on My Finger" and "Password," both of which peaked at #7 on the Billboard Country Chart. In 1965, Wells had her last Top 10 hit with "Meanwhile, Down At Joe's" and in 1966, Wells then had her final Top 20 hit with "It's All Over But the Crying," which peaked at #14 on the Country charts.
The Lonesome, Sad and Blue album (Decca, 1965).During the late '60s and '70s, Wells' streak of hits evaporated, but she managed to have a string of minor hits and remained a popular concert attraction. Wells continued with a string of Top 40 hits nearly up until the end of the decade with her last Top 40 single, "My Big Truck Drivin' Man" in 1968. In 1968, Wells recorded a duet album with husband Johnnie Wright called, We'll Stick Together. Wells also reunited with Red Foley at the end of the decade for a studio album. Her albums continued to chart the Top Country Albums chart up until 1969 with Guilty Street.
Wells was popular enough to start her own syndicated television program with her husband in 1969. The Kitty Wells/Johnny Wright Family Show also featured appearances by their children, including actor Bobby Wright, and stayed on the air for several years. She became the first female country star to have her own syndicated television show, but the program could not compete against shows starring more contemporary male artists like Porter Wagoner and Bill Anderson and only ran for one year.
Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit.