Kitty Wells and your blogger ‘Deke Rivers’ in Wisconsin Dells. To the left of Kitty is husband Johnnie Wright, and in back their son.
I have said it many times, but there is something most special about the country music stars who came before the slick promotions that are so commonplace with those who now find their 15 minutes of fame.
One of the legends, and by all accounts, one of the nicest ladies of country music was Kitty Wells. She was not only a performer, but a trailblazer.
Traveling the road doing shows is not easy. Even with the large tour buses that now make life more comfortable on the road there is no way to deny the fact living from town to town is rough. With that in mind think of how it must have been to travel rougher roads in far more cramped vehicles when Kitty Wells was starting her musical career.
By stamping her signature song, “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels,” on the music industry, Wells created a significant impact on country music in an era when is was overwhelmingly dominated by men. It is not too large of a statement to say she started a shift in traditional male-female roles in rural society.
When I met her (twice) she proved to be charming, and almost grandmotherly. Warm and kind to every person who wanted an old album signed, or a picture taken with her.
When it comes to these older legends who still travel, and want to bring music and smiles from Nashville all over the country one thing is clear. The show is not over until everyone who wants a personal memory has one.
These folks from the era of Kitty Wells stick around and chat. They tell stories of the early years while standing in the lobby after the show, and recreate from their memories of the classic years in country music new ones for the fans who stay after the last note was played.
That was the charm to Kitty Wells that I will never forget.
Wells continued to have an active role at the Grand Ole Opry long after country radio stopped playing her music. She placed 81 records on the Billboard Country Charts from 1952 through 1979, mostly as a solo artist but also in duets with her husband, Johnnie Wright, and several with singer Red Foley. Wright died last year at age 97. Wells was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1976.