Female country music singers and songwriters of the 1950s paved the way for many modern country vocalists. These women played local venues and wrote and recorded country music, and, in an era dominated by male vocalists, were some of the first women to top the Billboard Country Music charts.
Jean Shepard is the first female country music artist to sell a million records. She was born in Oklahoma and was the lead singer of her first group called the "Melody Ranch Girls." Shepard had been a Capitol Records recording artist since 1953. Her first hit was as a duet partner with Ferlin Husky called "A Dear John Letter." In 1955 she had her first solo top ten single, "A Satisfied Mind." The record was entirely written by Shepard and produced two more top ten hits. She joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1956 and has been an member for over 50 years. Her husband, also a honky-tonk singer, was killed in the same plane crash as Patsy Cline in 1963. Shepard starred in a country music TV show called "The Ozark Jubilee." Her last hit single was 1978's "The Real Thing." As of 2010, she remains active and still performs in the US and UK.
Jenny Lou Carson
Jenny Lou Carson was born Virginia Lucille Overstake in 1915. She first performed with her sisters in a group called "The Three Little Maids" in Chicago in the early 1930s. The song "You Two-Timed Me One Time Too Often," written by Carson, spent 20 weeks on the Billboard top 10 country chart in 1945, with 10 weeks at number one. Carson signed her recording contract with RCA Victor in 1947. She wrote, recorded and released 20 original songs for Decca Records, Mercury and RCA and co-wrote music with other country music artists of the time including Joan Weber, Eddy Arnold and Hank Snow. In 1954, she co-wrote "Let Me Go Lover," which was recorded by several artists including Hank Snow and Peggy Lee, and appeared in the charts six times. Carson was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1971. She died in 1976.
Kitty Wells is nicknamed "the queen of country music" because of her hits from the 1950s to the 1970s. Kitty was born in 1919 and began singing as a teenager with her sisters in a group called the Deason Sisters. Later, she sang backup vocals for her husband's duo Johnnie & Jack. She originally signed to RCA, but had her first hit with Decca with 1952's "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels." She joined the Grand Ole Opry the same year and had 23 top ten hits in the 1950s. Her career continued with more chart toppers in the 1960s, and she stayed with Decca until 1973. Wells was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1984 and, as of 2010, she is its oldest living member. Wells is credited with breaking down barriers and helping start the careers of artists including Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn. She also received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1991. She has been married to Johnnie Write since 1937 and they have three children.
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