Kitty Wells

Ellen Muriel Deason other well known as Kitty Wells was an American female country music singer. She was the first female country singer to top the U.S country charts as well as to become the first female country star. She broke down the female barrier in country music which inspired many female country singers. Her hit song “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels” in 1952 was the beginning of her career. She began singing as a child along with her family who were also musicians. Her father taught her how to play the guitar while her mother was a gospel singer taught her how to sing. Ellen married Johnnie Wright who aspired to country music stardom which eventually happened. She, her husband and his sister Louise Wright, toured together as a group called “Johnnie Right and the Harmony Girls”. They kept changing their group’s name multiple times such as “Tennessee Hillbillies” and eventually “Tennessee Mountain Boys”. Before Ellen became well known they toured with Roy Acuff known as the king of country music and his group the Smokey Mountain Boys. Acuff advised her husband that she shouldn’t be in the show’s headliner, because he believed that women couldn’t sell country music records. Which resulted in her not singing on some their records. While early records of her singing gained some notice, promoters wasn’t keen on promoting singers and thus Ellen was dropped from the label in 1950. However, in 1952, an executive from Decca Records, Paul Cohen approached to Ellen to record her song “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels”. At this time she was considering retirement due to her not being happy with her career which she didn’t expect to make a hit with this song, however she agreed to the session. At first this song was temporarily banned in many radio stations because of the meaning of the song which blamed unfaithful men for creating unfaithful women. However, audiences couldn’t get enough of it and took off which resulted over 800,000 copies sold. It became the first single by a female singer to reach No.1 of the country music chart. Soon her career skyrocketed as her other songs became at the top 10 of the charts, such as another No.1 song “One by One” with country star Red Foley or No.3 “As Long as I Live”. Record companies were reluctant to issue albums by female country musicians but Ellen proved that women can sell well. However during the early 60’s her career dropped a bit but would still deliver top ten hits frequently. She was so popular that she even had her own television show with her husband in 1969 but didn’t last long due to not being able to compete against shows starring contemporary male artists like Bill Anderson. She and her husband performed 63 years together. They announced their retirement in their last show at the Nashville Nightlife Theatre in 2000. Ellen was  ranked No.15 on CMT’s 40 Greatest Women of Country Music in 2002. Sadly she passed away at the age of 92 years old due to a stroke in Tennessee. Her children have tried to live up to their parents legacy of becoming country music singers but didn’t have the same success.

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