Legendary Kitty Wells Dies at 92

First country female with No. 1 single

photo by Randi Radcliff

Kitty Wells, "The Queen of Country Music," has died from complications from a stroke at age 92, Monday morning (July 16).

Kitty was a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, elected in 1976, and also received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1991. Born Ellen Muriel Deason, Aug. 30, 1919, in Nashville, Kitty began her career traveling with husband Johnny Wright, whom she married in 1937. Johnny passed away in 2011. She was also a member of the Louisiana Hayride radio show.

Kitty came to national prominence in 1952 after releasing the single "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels." The song was an answer to Hank Thompson's "Wild Side of Life," which blamed women for marital strife. Kitty's "answer song" topped the charts on Aug. 23, 1952, and she became the first country female artist to have a No. 1 record on the charts. Kitty also scored a No. 1 hit with Red Foley, "One by One," in 1954, before reaching the top again in 1961 with "Heartbreak U.S.A."

As the top female star of her generation, Kitty had 35 Billboard Top 10 singles. Kitty is credited for opening the doors for scores of female artists, including Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, Dolly Parton and others. She went against the traditional country thinking when she began headlining shows during the 1950s and 1960s. It was thought at the time that females could not sell tickets.

Kitty's recording success also led record companies to sign more female acts and to create new images for female singers.

Loretta Lynn posted the following on her web site: "Kitty Wells will always be greatest female country singer of all times. She was my hero. If i had never heard of Kitty Wells, I don’t think I would have been a singer myself. I wanted to sound just like her, but as far as I am concerned, No one will ever be as great as Kitty Wells. She truly is the Queen of Country Music."

 In lieu of flowers, the Wells family is asking for donations to Goodpasture Christian School in Madison, Tenn.

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