Home      Discussion      Topics      Dictionary      Almanac
Signup       Login
Kitty Wells

Kitty Wells

Overview
Ellen Muriel Deason known professionally as Kitty Wells, is an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 country music
Country music
Country music is a popular American musical style that began in the rural Southern United States in the 1920s. It takes its roots from Western cowboy and folk music...

 singer. Her 1952 hit recording, "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels
It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels
"It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels" is a 1952 country song written by J. D. "Jay" Miller, and originally recorded by Kitty Wells. It was an answer song to the Hank Thompson hit "The Wild Side of Life."...

", 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 until the mid-1960s, inspiring a long list of female country singers who came to prominence 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
Billboard (magazine)
Billboard is a weekly American magazine devoted to the music industry, and is one of the oldest trade magazines in the world. It maintains several internationally recognized music charts that track the most popular songs and albums in various categories on a weekly basis...

 country charts, according to historian Joel Whitburn
Joel Whitburn
Joel Carver Whitburn is an American author and music historian.Whitburn founded Record Research Inc. in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, in 1970, and put together a team of researchers to examine in detail all of Billboards music and video charts...

's book The Top 40 Country Hits, behind Dolly Parton
Dolly Parton
Dolly Rebecca Parton is an American singer-songwriter, author, multi-instrumentalist, actress and philanthropist, best known for her work in country music. Dolly Parton has appeared in movies like 9 to 5, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Steel Magnolias and Straight Talk...

, Loretta Lynn
Loretta Lynn
Loretta Lynn is an American country music singer-songwriter, author and philanthropist. Born in Butcher Hollow, Kentucky to a coal miner father, Lynn married at 13 years old, was a mother soon after, and moved to Washington with her husband, Oliver Lynn. Their marriage was sometimes tumultuous; he...

, Reba McEntire
Reba McEntire
Reba Nell McEntire is an American country music artist and actress. She began her career in the music industry as a high school student singing in the Kiowa High School band , on local radio shows with her siblings, and at rodeos. As a solo act, she was invited to perform at a rodeo in Oklahoma...

, Tammy Wynette
Tammy Wynette
Virginia Wynette Pugh, known professionally as Tammy Wynette , was an American country music singer-songwriter and one of the genre's best-known artists and biggest-selling female vocalists....

, and Tanya Tucker
Tanya Tucker
Tanya Denise Tucker is a female American country music artist who had her first hit, "Delta Dawn", in 1972 at the age of 13...

.
Discussion
Ask a question about 'Kitty Wells'
Start a new discussion about 'Kitty Wells'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Unanswered Questions
Encyclopedia
Ellen Muriel Deason known professionally as Kitty Wells, is an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 country music
Country music
Country music is a popular American musical style that began in the rural Southern United States in the 1920s. It takes its roots from Western cowboy and folk music...

 singer. Her 1952 hit recording, "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels
It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels
"It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels" is a 1952 country song written by J. D. "Jay" Miller, and originally recorded by Kitty Wells. It was an answer song to the Hank Thompson hit "The Wild Side of Life."...

", 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 until the mid-1960s, inspiring a long list of female country singers who came to prominence 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
Billboard (magazine)
Billboard is a weekly American magazine devoted to the music industry, and is one of the oldest trade magazines in the world. It maintains several internationally recognized music charts that track the most popular songs and albums in various categories on a weekly basis...

 country charts, according to historian Joel Whitburn
Joel Whitburn
Joel Carver Whitburn is an American author and music historian.Whitburn founded Record Research Inc. in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, in 1970, and put together a team of researchers to examine in detail all of Billboards music and video charts...

's book The Top 40 Country Hits, behind Dolly Parton
Dolly Parton
Dolly Rebecca Parton is an American singer-songwriter, author, multi-instrumentalist, actress and philanthropist, best known for her work in country music. Dolly Parton has appeared in movies like 9 to 5, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Steel Magnolias and Straight Talk...

, Loretta Lynn
Loretta Lynn
Loretta Lynn is an American country music singer-songwriter, author and philanthropist. Born in Butcher Hollow, Kentucky to a coal miner father, Lynn married at 13 years old, was a mother soon after, and moved to Washington with her husband, Oliver Lynn. Their marriage was sometimes tumultuous; he...

, Reba McEntire
Reba McEntire
Reba Nell McEntire is an American country music artist and actress. She began her career in the music industry as a high school student singing in the Kiowa High School band , on local radio shows with her siblings, and at rodeos. As a solo act, she was invited to perform at a rodeo in Oklahoma...

, Tammy Wynette
Tammy Wynette
Virginia Wynette Pugh, known professionally as Tammy Wynette , was an American country music singer-songwriter and one of the genre's best-known artists and biggest-selling female vocalists....

, and Tanya Tucker
Tanya Tucker
Tanya Denise Tucker is a female American country music artist who had her first hit, "Delta Dawn", in 1972 at the age of 13...

. Wells was the third country music artist, after Roy Acuff
Roy Acuff
Roy Claxton Acuff was an American country music singer, fiddler, and promoter. Known as the King of Country Music, Acuff is often credited with moving the genre from its early string band and "hoedown" format to the star singer-based format that helped make it internationally successful.Acuff...

 and Hank Williams, to receive the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award
Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award
The Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award is awarded by the Recording Academy to "performers who, during their lifetimes, have made creative contributions of outstanding artistic significance to the field of recording."...

 in 1991, as well as being the eighth woman and first Caucasian
Caucasian race
The term Caucasian race has been used to denote the general physical type of some or all of the populations of Europe, North Africa, the Horn of Africa, Western Asia , Central Asia and South Asia...

 woman to receive the honor. In 1976, she was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame; and as of 2011 - at the age of 92 - is its oldest living member. Wells' accomplishments earned her the moniker, The Queen of Country Music.

Early life


Wells was born Ellen Muriel Deason in 1919 in Nashville, Tennessee
Nashville, Tennessee
Nashville is the capital of the U.S. state of Tennessee and the county seat of Davidson County. It is located on the Cumberland River in Davidson County, in the north-central part of the state. The city is a center for the health care, publishing, banking and transportation industries, and is home...

, one of the few country singers born in Nashville. She began singing as a child, learning guitar from her father. As a teenager, she sang with her sisters, who performed under the name the Deason Sisters on a local radio station beginning in 1936.

At the age of 18 she married Johnnie Wright
Johnnie Wright
Johnnie Robert Wright, Jr. , known professionally as Johnnie Wright, was an American country music singer-songwriter who spent much of his career working with Jack Anglin as the popular duo Johnnie & Jack, and was also the husband of Kitty Wells.-Early life and career:Born in Mount Juliet,...

, a cabinet-maker who aspired to country-music stardom (which he'd eventually achieve as half of the duo Johnnie & Jack
Johnnie & Jack
Johnnie & Jack was an American country music duo composed of Johnnie Wright and Jack Anglin . Between 1951 and 1962, the duo released several singles on the RCA Victor Records label, including their version of "Goodnite, Sweetheart, Goodnite" which peaked at number four on the Best Seller charts,...

).

Music career


Wells sang with Wright and his sister Louise Wright; the three toured as Johnnie Right and the Harmony Girls. Soon Wright met Jack Anglin
Jack Anglin
Jack Anglin was an American country music singer best known as a member of The Anglin Brothers, and later Johnnie & Jack with Johnnie Wright....

, who married Louise and became part of the band, which became known first as the Tennessee Hillbillies and then the Tennessee Mountain Boys.

Wright and Wells performed as a duo; it was at this time she adopted "Kitty Wells" as her stage name. When Anglin returned from the Army, he and Wright formed the Johnnie & Jack
Johnnie & Jack
Johnnie & Jack was an American country music duo composed of Johnnie Wright and Jack Anglin . Between 1951 and 1962, the duo released several singles on the RCA Victor Records label, including their version of "Goodnite, Sweetheart, Goodnite" which peaked at number four on the Best Seller charts,...

 duo. Wells would tour with the pair, occasionally performing backup vocals.

On Louisiana Hayride
Louisiana Hayride
Louisiana Hayride was a radio and later television country music show broadcast from the Shreveport Municipal Memorial Auditorium in Shreveport, Louisiana, that during its heyday from 1948 to 1960 helped to launch the careers of some of the greatest names in American music...

, she performed with her husband's duo. Wells, however, did not sing on their records until signing with RCA Records
RCA Records
RCA Records is one of the flagship labels of Sony Music Entertainment. The RCA initials stand for Radio Corporation of America , which was the parent corporation from 1929 to 1985 and a partner from 1985 to 1986.RCA's Canadian unit is Sony's oldest label...

 in 1949 releasing some of her first singles, including "Death At The Bar" and "Don't Wait For The Last Minute To Pray", neither of which charted. While these early records gained some notice, promoters still weren't keen on promoting female singers, and therefore Wells was dropped from the label in 1950.

1952: "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels"


In 1952, Paul Cohen, an executive at Decca Records
Decca Records
Decca Records began as a British record label established in 1929 by Edward Lewis. Its U.S. label was established in late 1934; however, owing to World War II, the link with the British company was broken for several decades....

, approached Wells to record "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels
It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels
"It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels" is a 1952 country song written by J. D. "Jay" Miller, and originally recorded by Kitty Wells. It was an answer song to the Hank Thompson hit "The Wild Side of Life."...

". Wells was disenchanted with her career prospects and was considering retirement, but agreed to the session (at Owen Bradley
Owen Bradley
Owen Bradley was an American record producer who, along with Chet Atkins and Bob Ferguson, was one of the chief architects of the 1950s and 1960s Nashville sound in country music and rockabilly.-Before the fame:...

’s studio on May 3, 1952) because of the $125 union scale recording payment. "I wasn't expecting to make a hit," said Wells later. "I just thought it was another song."

"It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels" was an answer song
Answer song
An answer song is, as the name suggests, a song made in answer to a previous song, normally by another artist. It is also known as a response song. The concept became widespread in blues and R&B recorded music in the 1930s through 1950s...

 to Hank Thompson
Hank Thompson (music)
Henry William Thompson , known professionally as Hank Thompson, was an American country music entertainer whose career spanned seven decades...

's No. 1 smash, "The Wild Side of Life
The Wild Side of Life
"The Wild Side of Life" is a song made famous by country music singer Hank Thompson. Originally released in 1952, the song became one of the most popular recordings in the genre's history, spending 15 weeks at No...

", and its lyrical treatment of seductive, wayward women. Wells' single retorted, "It's a shame that all the blame is on us women."

The record's message was controversial at the time, and was banned by many radio stations. It was also temporarily banned from the Grand Ole Opry
Grand Ole Opry
The Grand Ole Opry is a weekly country music stage concert in Nashville, Tennessee, that has presented the biggest stars of that genre since 1925. It is also among the longest-running broadcasts in history since its beginnings as a one-hour radio "barn dance" on WSM-AM...

. Nevertheless, audiences couldn’t get enough of it. The single took off during the summer of 1952, and sold more than 800,000 copies in its initial release. It became the first single by a female singer to peak at No. 1 in the eight-year history of the country music chart, where it remained for six weeks. (Certain female country songs, notably Patsy Montana
Patsy Montana
Ruby Rose Blevins , known professionally as Patsy Montana, was an American country music singer-songwriter and the first female country performer to have a million-selling single...

's million-selling "I Want to Be a Cowboy's Sweetheart
I Want to be a Cowboy's Sweetheart
"I Want to be a Cowboy's Sweetheart" is a country and Western song written and first recorded in 1935 by Rubye Blevins, who performed as Patsy Montana. It was the first country and Western song by a female artist to sell more than one million copies....

" predate the creation of Billboards country chart in 1944.) "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels" also crossed over to Billboard’s pop charts, hitting No. 27. Because of her major breakthrough, Wells received a membership to the Grand Ole Opry, which had originally banned the single.

Writer Bill Friskics-Warren has argued that part of the song's appeal came from its combination of a modern message with
a familiar, antediluvian tune, a melody drawn from the Carter Family
Carter Family
The Carter Family was a traditional American folk music group that recorded between 1927 and 1956. Their music had a profound impact on bluegrass, country, Southern Gospel, pop and rock musicians as well as on the U.S. folk revival of the 1960s. They were the first vocal group to become country...

's "I'm Thinking Tonight of My Blue Eyes" (as were "The Wild Side of Life" and Roy Acuff
Roy Acuff
Roy Claxton Acuff was an American country music singer, fiddler, and promoter. Known as the King of Country Music, Acuff is often credited with moving the genre from its early string band and "hoedown" format to the star singer-based format that helped make it internationally successful.Acuff...

's "The Great Speckled Bird
The Great Speckled Bird (song)
"The Great Speckled Bird" is a Southern hymn whose lyrics were written by the Reverend Guy Smith. It is an allegory referencing Fundamentalist self-perception during the Fundamentalist-Modernist Controversy. The song is in the form of AABA and has a 12 bar count...

"). Practically anyone could hum along with "Angels" the first time they heard it.


Wells is also credited as the one who discovered and encouraged a young 15-year-old musician who would be known as Zane Ashton (real name Bill Aken), to pursue his musical ambitions as a singer and guitarist. Elvis would later nickname the young guitar player "The Fixer," due to his ability to 'fix' mediocre sound tracks with his guitar work, and this further served to validate her ability to recognize young talent in its early stages.

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
Webb Pierce
Webb Michael Pierce was one of the most popular American honky tonk vocalists of the 1950s, charting more number one hits than any other country artist during the decade. His biggest hit was "In The Jailhouse Now," which charted for 37 weeks in 1955, 21 of them at number one...

's "Back Street Affair". The single reached number six in the spring of 1953, helping to establish a lasting place at the top of the charts for Wells.
Between 1953 and 1955, she 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
Hey Joe (1953 song)
"Hey Joe" is a 1953 popular song written by Boudleaux Bryant. It was recorded by Carl Smith for Columbia Records on 19 May 1953 and spent eight weeks at #1 on the U.S. country music chart...

" and "Cheatin's A Sin". The next year, Wells partnered with country star Red Foley
Red Foley
Clyde Julian Foley , better known as Red Foley, was an American singer, musician, and radio and TV personality who made a major contribution to the growth of country music after World War II....

 for the duet "One By One", which peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Country Chart
Hot Country Songs
Hot Country Songs is a chart published weekly by Billboard magazine in the United States.This 60-position chart lists the most popular country music songs, calculated weekly mostly by airplay and occasionally commercial sales...

, 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 No. 3. As a solo artist in 1954, Wells had two major hits with the No. 8 "Release Me
Release Me (1946 song)
"Release Me" is a popular song written by Eddie Miller, Robert Yount, and James Pebworth , published in 1946.Miller wrote the song in 1946 but could not get anyone to record it for years, so he recorded it himself in 1953. Shortly afterward it was covered by Jimmy Heap, and with even better success...

" and the Top 15 hit, "Thou Shalt Not Steal" (written by Don Everly of the Everly Brothers).

Record companies were reluctant to issue albums by country's female artists until Wells proved that women could sell. She became the first female country singer to issue an LP, starting with 1956's Kitty Wells' Country Hit Parade, which consisted of her biggest hits. She 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
Making Believe
Making Believe is a country music song written by Jimmy Work and best known for its chart-topping version in 1955 by Kitty Wells. The song is consistently on lists of all-time greatest country music songs and has been covered by scores of artists over the past fifty years, including Bob Dylan,...

" and "Lonely Side of Town" became chart-toppers
for Wells, however not on Billboard magazine. "Making Believe" is widely regarded as one of the greatest songs in country music history and Wells' as the definitive version of the song despite scores of covers over the years. Wells's later 1950s releases included "Searching (For Someone Like You)", "I Can't Stop Loving You
I Can't Stop Loving You
"I Can't Stop Loving You" is a popular song written and composed by country singer, songwriter and musician Don Gibson, who first recorded it on December 30, 1957, for RCA Victor Records...

", and "Amigo's Guitar", which she wrote with John D. Loudermilk
John D. Loudermilk
John D. Loudermilk is an American singer and songwriter.-Biography:Born in Durham, North Carolina, Loudermilk grew up in a family who were members of the Salvation Army faith and was influenced by the church singing. His cousins Ira and Charlie Loudermilk were known professionally as the Louvin...

.
In 1957, Wells issued Winner of Your Heart. This was followed by a string of LPs released from Decca Records
Decca Records
Decca Records began as a British record label established in 1929 by Edward Lewis. Its U.S. label was established in late 1934; however, owing to World War II, the link with the British company was broken for several decades....

 between 1957 and 1973. She also partnered 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
Broadcast Music Incorporated
Broadcast Music, Inc. is one of three United States performing rights organizations, along with ASCAP and SESAC. It collects license fees on behalf of songwriters, composers, and music publishers and distributes them as royalties to those members whose works have been performed...

 for writing "Amigo's Guitar." Although not known much for her songwriting, Wells has won two BMI awards, including one for "Amigo's Guitar". She has published more than 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
Loretta Lynn
Loretta Lynn is an American country music singer-songwriter, author and philanthropist. Born in Butcher Hollow, Kentucky to a coal miner father, Lynn married at 13 years old, was a mother soon after, and moved to Washington with her husband, Oliver Lynn. Their marriage was sometimes tumultuous; he...

 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
Dolly Parton
Dolly Rebecca Parton is an American singer-songwriter, author, multi-instrumentalist, actress and philanthropist, best known for her work in country music. Dolly Parton has appeared in movies like 9 to 5, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Steel Magnolias and Straight Talk...

's 1968 recording "Just Because I'm a Woman
Just Because I'm a Woman (1968 album)
-Personnel:*Dolly Parton – vocals, guitar*Wayne Moss – guitar*Chip Young – guitar*George McCormick – guitar*Lloyd Green – pedal steel guitar, dobro*Roy Huskey – bass*Jerry Carrigan – drums*Buck Trent – banjo*Mack Magaha – fiddle*Hargus "Pig" Robbins – piano...

", like "Honky Tonk Angels", questioned the male-female double-standard.

Wells entered the 1960s on top with songs like "Heartbreak U.S.A.
Heartbreak U.S.A.
"Heartbreak U.S.A." is a 1961 song by Kitty Wells. The single became one of Kitty Wells most successful releases as a solo artist. "Heartbreak U.S.A." became Kitty Wells third and final number one, staying at the top spot for four weeks and spending twenty-three weeks on the chart...

" and "Day into Night".
"Heartbreak USA" peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Country Chart and became her third and final No. 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
Patsy Cline
Patsy Cline , born Virginia Patterson Hensley in Gore, Virginia, was an American country music singer who enjoyed pop music crossover success during the era of the Nashville sound in the early 1960s...

, 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
Ernest Tubb
Ernest Dale Tubb , nicknamed the Texas Troubadour, was an American singer and songwriter and one of the pioneers of country music. His biggest career hit song, "Walking the Floor Over You" , marked the rise of the honky tonk style of music...

, 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
Nashville sound
The Nashville sound originated during the late 1950s as a sub-genre of American country music, replacing the chart dominance of honky tonk music which was most popular in the 1940s and 1950s...

 into her material. The well-known Nashville Sound vocal group, The Jordanaires
The Jordanaires
The Jordanaires are an American vocal quartet, which formed as a gospel group in 1948. They are best known for providing vocal background for Elvis Presley, in live appearances and recordings from 1956 to 1972...

, 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, her singles began to return to the Top 10 with "This White Circle on My Finger" and "Password", both of which peaked at No. 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 No. 14 on the country charts.
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. She continued with a string of Top 40 hits nearly 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 until 1969 with Guilty Street.

Wells was popular enough to start her own syndicated television program with her husband in 1969. The Kitty Wells/Johnnie 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 syndication
In broadcasting, syndication is the sale of the right to broadcast radio shows and television shows by multiple radio stations and television stations, without going through a broadcast network, though the process of syndication may conjure up structures like those of a network itself, by its very...

 television show, but the program could not compete against shows starring more contemporary male artists like Porter Wagoner
Porter Wagoner
Porter Wayne Wagoner was a popular American country music singer known for his flashy Nudie and Manuel suits and blond pompadour. He introduced the young Dolly Parton near the beginning of her career on his long-running television show, and they were a well-known duet throughout the late 1960s and...

 and Bill Anderson and only ran for one year.

1970 – present: Career decline and retirement


Wells stayed under the Decca label until 1973. She released three studio albums in 1970 and two in 1971. The singles from these albums did not become major hits, some which didn't even make the Top 70 on the Billboard Country Chart. In 1973, when Decca became MCA Records
MCA Records
MCA Records was an American-based record company owned by MCA Inc., which later gave way to the larger MCA Music Entertainment Group , of which MCA Records was still part. MCA Records was absorbed by Geffen Records in 2003...

, Wells stayed with them for a short period time, before leaving the label. In 1974 she signed with Capricorn Records
Capricorn Records
Capricorn Records was an independent record label which was launched by Phil Walden, Alan Walden, and Frank Fenter in 1969 in Macon, Georgia.-First Incarnation:...

, a southern rock label of the era, and recorded a blues-flavored album entitled Forever Young on which she was backed by members of the Allman Brothers Band. The album was not a huge commercial success (though the Dylan-penned title tune did receive some airplay), but it received considerable acclaim and, through its association with the Allmans, brought Wells to the attention of a younger audience.

In 1976 she was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Wells became the second female country singer to be elected (Patsy Cline
Patsy Cline
Patsy Cline , born Virginia Patterson Hensley in Gore, Virginia, was an American country music singer who enjoyed pop music crossover success during the era of the Nashville sound in the early 1960s...

 was the first to be honored as a solo act in 1973). In the late 1970s, Wells and husband formed their own record label, Rubocca (the name was a composite of their three children's names: Ruby
Ruby Wright (country singer)
Ruby Wright was an American country music singer-songwriter. Wright was the daughter of country singers Kitty Wells and Johnnie Wright. Her most successful single was "Dern Ya", an answer to Roger Miller's "Dang Me."...

, Bobby, and Carol) and released several albums. In 1979 at age 60 she was back on the Billboard charts with a modest hit, "I Thank You for the Roses".

Despite her waning popularity, Wells remained a successful concert attraction at smaller venues throughout the country and was still performing on the summer resort circuit as late as the mid-1980s.
In 1987 she joined fellow Opry legends Brenda Lee
Brenda Lee
Brenda Mae Tarpley , known as Brenda Lee, is an American performer who sang rockabilly, pop and country music, and had 37 US chart hits during the 1960s, a number surpassed only by Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Ray Charles and Connie Francis...

 and Loretta Lynn
Loretta Lynn
Loretta Lynn is an American country music singer-songwriter, author and philanthropist. Born in Butcher Hollow, Kentucky to a coal miner father, Lynn married at 13 years old, was a mother soon after, and moved to Washington with her husband, Oliver Lynn. Their marriage was sometimes tumultuous; he...

 on k.d. lang
K.D. Lang
Kathryn Dawn Lang, OC , known by her stage name k.d. lang, is a Canadian pop and country singer-songwriter and occasional actress...

's "Honky Tonk Angels Medley", which failed to crack the U.S. country charts despite high critical acclaim and crossover success in Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

. Wells's 1955 recording "Making Believe" was included in the soundtrack of the film Mississippi Burning
Mississippi Burning
Mississippi Burning is a 1988 American crime drama film loosely based on the FBI investigation into the real-life murders of three civil rights workers in the U.S. state of Mississippi in 1964. The film focuses on two fictional FBI agents who investigate the murders...

.

In 1991, Wells was awarded from the Grammy Awards a Lifetime Achievement award. She, along with Johnnie and Bobby, joined producers Randall Franks
Randall Franks
Randall Franks is an award-winning bluegrass singer and musician who plays fiddle, mandolin, guitar and mountain dulcimer. He was recognized by the International Bluegrass Music Museum in 2010 as a Bluegrass Legend; inducted into the Atlanta Country Music Hall of Fame in 2004; and was designated...

 and Alan Autry
Alan Autry
Carlos Alan Autry is an American actor, politician, and former National Football League football player. He is best known for his role as Captain Bubba Skinner on the television series In the Heat of the Night; he also has been in numerous movies and other television shows...

 for the In the Heat of the Night
In the Heat of the Night (TV series)
In the Heat of the Night is a television series based on the motion picture and novel of the same name. It was broadcast on NBC from 1988 until 1992, and then on CBS until 1995...

 CD “Christmas Time’s A Comin’” performing "Jingle Bells" with the cast on the CD released on Sonlite and MGM/UA for one of the most popular Christmas releases of 1991 and 1992 with Southern retailers.

Wells and her husband opened the Family Country Junction Museum and Studio in 1983 in their hometown of Madison
Madison, Tennessee
Madison, Tennessee is a neighborhood in northeast Nashville, Tennessee in the United States. It is incorporated as part of the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County....

, but stopped running it on their own in 2000. Their grandson, John Sturdivant, Jr. has kept the Junction Recording Studio at its present location which also houses Junction Records and Music Entertainment.
Wells and her husband-singing partner of 53 years performed their final show together on December 31, 2000 at the Nashville Nightlife Theater and had announced their retirement earlier that year.

Wells was ranked No. 15 on CMT's 40 Greatest Women of Country Music in 2002.

An exhibit honoring Wells at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville ran from August 2008 through June 2009.
On May 14, 2008, Wells' "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels" was added to the National Recording Registry
National Recording Registry
The National Recording Registry is a list of sound recordings that "are culturally, historically, or aesthetically important, and/or inform or reflect life in the United States." The registry was established by the National Recording Preservation Act of 2000, which created the National Recording...

 at the Library of Congress
Library of Congress
The Library of Congress is the research library of the United States Congress, de facto national library of the United States, and the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States. Located in three buildings in Washington, D.C., it is the largest library in the world by shelf space and...

, along with Roy Orbison
Roy Orbison
Roy Kelton Orbison was an American singer-songwriter, well known for his distinctive, powerful voice, complex compositions, and dark emotional ballads. Orbison grew up in Texas and began singing in a rockabilly/country & western band in high school until he was signed by Sun Records in Memphis...

's "Oh, Pretty Woman
Oh, Pretty Woman
"Oh, Pretty Woman" is a song, released in August 1964, which was a worldwide success for Roy Orbison. Recorded on the Monument Records label in Nashville, Tennessee, it was written by Roy Orbison and Bill Dees. The song spent three weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100...

".

Personal life


Wells married Johnnie Wright (1914–2011) in 1937. They had three children: two daughters, Ruby (1939–2009) and Carol Sue and a son, Bobby. In addition, Wells has five siblings: Jewel, William, Orville, Raymond, and Mae. Her parents were Charles Cary and Myrtle Deason.
Carol Sue released a single with Wells in the mid-'50s titled "How Far Is Heaven", which peaked at No. 11 on the Billboard Country Chart. Wells' other children have both had a try as country music singers, but none had any bigger success. Ruby recorded an album for the Kapp label, while Bobby recorded albums for both Decca and ABC Dot. Wells and her husband—who are lifelong members of the Church of Christ—celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary in 2007, a rare achievement for any couple and one of the longest celebrity marriages in history. Ruby died in 2009 at the age of 69 and Johnnie died in 2011 at the age of 97.

Honors

  • NARAS Governor's Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Recording Industry (1981)
  • Academy of Country Music's Pioneer Award (1985)
  • NARAS Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award (1991)
  • The Music City News Living Legend Award (1993)

External links