Monday, August 30, 2010

Happy Birthday Kitty Wells

As hard as it might be to believe, country music was once almost exclusively a man's game...

It was Kitty Wells who shattered that particular straw-covered glass ceiling in 1952, with a little ditty called It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels, a record which was controversial in its time for asserting that just maybe it wasn't women who were exclusively to blame for sin. No matter how the men may have grumbled, Wells' radio play and record sales were massive, which allowed her almost unimpeded access to their old boy's club. In 1956, Wells also became the first woman to release a solo country album, Kitty Wells' Country Hit Parade.

For the next decade her string of hits continued, encouraging a successive generation of female artists - including Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn, and Dolly Parton - to add a female perspective to the genre; many of her songs were written in response to those of men, as with the classic exchange of Paying For That Back Street Affair, which impertinently (and rightly so) responded to Webb Pierce's Back Street Affair*. Still, if there were hard feelings between them, they weren't evident in the duets they later recorded together; in fact, Wells eventually made duets with many of the men who may have been reticent towards her fame, including Pierce, Red Foley and Jim Reeves.

Today country music legend Kitty Wells turns 91; here she is on the Grand Ole Opry singing I Don't Claim To Be An Angel, no matter how strenuously those of us in the know might beg to differ...

*If only she were still recording, maybe she could make Toby Keith shut the Hell up.
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