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Back in 1949, it was Atlanta, not Nashville, that was considered the recording center of the South. And on Jan. 31 of that year, a young lady named Kitty Wells walked into an Atlanta studio and cut the first songs of what would be her incredible career.

Kitty had enjoyed a successful music career on the road with her husband Johnnie Wright, but recording seemed a distant dream. Few females at that time were given record contracts, outside of cowgirl singers like Patsy Montana and Texas Ruby.

"I didn't have anybody to admire," Kitty once admitted. "In those days, the doors weren't always open to women."

The tunes that Kitty recorded that day in Atlanta never went anywhere, and she resigned herself to being a wife and mother. But three years later, Kitty cut the classic "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels," which shot to No. 1 and vaulted her to instant stardom. "The Queen of Country Music," as she came to be known, continued to make records through the 1970s.

Kitty may never have had a role model of her own, but she soon became one to a legion of female singers. "Kitty Wells was a pioneer, because she had to chart her own course," says Emmylou Harris. "She is an inspiration."