The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

National News

July 16, 2012

1st female country superstar Kitty Wells dies

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Singer Kitty Wells, whose hits such as “Making Believe” and “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels” made her the first female superstar of country music, died Monday. She was 92.

The singer’s family said she died peacefully at home after complications from a stroke.

Her solo recording career lasted from 1952 to the late 1970s and she made concert tours from the late 1930s until 2000. That year, she announced she was quitting the road, although she performed occasionally in Nashville and elsewhere afterward.

Her “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels” in 1952 was the first No. 1 hit by a woman soloist on the country music charts and dashed the notion that women couldn’t be headliners. Billboard magazine had been charting country singles for about eight years at that time.

She recorded approximately 50 albums, had 25 Top 10 country hits and went around the world several times. From 1953 to 1968, various polls listed Wells as the No. 1 female country singer. Tammy Wynette finally dethroned her.

In 1976, she was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame and 10 years later received the Pioneer Award from the Academy of Country Music. In 1991 she received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences — the group that presents the Grammy Awards.

Her 1955 hit “Making Believe” was on the movie soundtrack of “Mississippi Burning” that was released 33 years later. Among her other hits were “The Things I Might Have Been,” “Release Me,” “Amigo’s Guitar,” “Heartbreak USA,” “Left to Right” and a version of “I Can’t Stop Loving You.”

In 1989, Wells collaborated with Brenda Lee, Loretta Lynn and k.d. lang on the record “The Honky Tonk Angels Medley.”

“I never really thought about being a pioneer,” she said in an Associated Press interview in 2008. “I loved doing what I was doing.”

Her songs tended to treasure devotion and home life, with titles like “Searching (For Someone Like You)” and “Three Ways (To Love You).” But her “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels” gave the woman’s point of view about the wild side of life.

The song was written by J.D. Miller as a retort to Hank Thompson’s 1952 hit, “The Wild Side of Life.”

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