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Country Music Pioneer Kitty Wells Dies at 92
Kitty Wells, famed singer, died at the age of 92 on Monday. According to her family, Wells died peacefully at home after complications from a stroke. Wells is known for the songs “Making Believe” and “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels.” She became the first female superstar of country music. Wells’ solo career began in 1952 and ended in the late 1970s. She performed at concerts from the late 1930s until 2000. In 1952, her song “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels” was the first number one hit by a woman soloist on the country music charts.
Wells recorded roughly 50 albums during her career, had 25 Top 10 country hits and traveled around the world multiple times. From the years 1953 to 1968, Wells was listed as the Number One female country singer by various polls. She was dethroned by Tammy Wynette. Wells was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1976 and received the Pioneer Award from the Academy of Country Music in 1986. Wells was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences in 1991.
Some of Wells’ other hits included “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.” Wells collaborated in 1989 with Brenda Lee, k.d. lang and Loretta Lynn on the song “The Honky Tonk Angels Medley.”
“I never really thought about being a pioneer,” Wells said in 2008. “I loved doing what I was doing.”
The Library of Congress announced in 2008 that Wells’ record was added to its National Recording Registry of works of unusual historic merit. That same year, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum honored her with an exhibit chronicling her career. Wells’ second hit came in 1953 and it was called “Paying for That Back Street Affair.” The song was written in response to Webb Pierce’s hit “Back Street Affair.”
“What I’ve done has been satisfying,” she said in 1986. “I wouldn’t change a thing.”
Wells said of touring, “I like going to different places and seeing the scenery and meeting the people. I’ve always enjoyed traveling. It’s as good a way as any to spend your time.” Wells was born as Ellen Muriel Deason in Nashville and started playing the guitar when she was 14. Wells married Johnny Wright in 1938 prior to the age of 20. She created her stage name from an old folk song called ‘Sweet Kitty Wells.’ Johnny Wright died on September 27, 2011.