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Queen of Country Music Kitty Wells dies at 92

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
July 17th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Demure Ellen Muriel Deason of Nashville began playing the guitar at the age of 14. In 1938, at the age of 20, she married Johnnie Wright and the two embarked on a long musical career. Taking her name from the old folk song ditty, "Sweet Kitty Wells," she told the world "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels." Heralded as the "Queen of Country Music, Wells has passed away following complications from a stroke. She was 92.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Wells recorded 50 albums in her lifetime and had 25 Top 10 country hits. She became the first solo female artist to have the No. 1 country hit with her song "Honky Tonk Angels" in 1952.

Some of Wells' other hits included "The Things I Might Have Been," "Release Me," "Heartbreak USA" and the 1955 song "Making Believe," which landed on the "Mississippi Burning" soundtrack 33 years later.

Wells was an innovator, bringing a female perspective to the male-dominated country music scene. "Kitty Wells was every female country music performer's heroine," singer Barbara Mandrell said in a statement. "She led the way for all of us and I feel very grateful and honored to have known her. She was always the most gracious, kind and lovely person to be around."

Songwriter Tom T. Hall noted, "Kitty was the first lady to come out and tell her side of the story about honky tonking and cheating and those kinds of things."

Wells enjoyed a nearly unbroken string of popular singles during the '50s, both on her own and partnered with male label mates Red Foley and Webb Pierce. Until the advent of Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn in the late '50s and early '60s, she had little competition for chart supremacy among other female singers.

One of Wells' last high-profile major label appearances came in 1974, when Phil Walden's Capricorn Records issued "Forever Young," which featured the veteran singer backed by members of the Allman Brothers Band, the label's top rock act. The title track was a Bob Dylan cover.

Managed as ever by husband Wright, with whom she started an independent label and country museum, Wells continued to tour until her retirement in 2000.

Wells and her husband Wright, who died in 2011, had three children, eight grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren.

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