Kitty Wells, pioneering female country music vocalist, was born Muriel Deason in Nashville on August 30, 1919. She learned to sing and play guitar at an early age and was performing with Johnny Wright and the Harmony Girls by 1936. In 1937 she married Wright, who gave her the stage name “Kitty Wells” after the folk song “Sweet Kitty Wells.” During the 1940s Wells focused on raising her family, occasionally performing with her husband and his partner Jack Anglin.
In 1952 she recorded “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky-Tonk Angels” for Paul Cohen at Decca Records. This woman’s answer song to Hank Thompson’s “Wild Side of Life” became the first number one country hit recorded by a female vocalist. From that point through the early 1960s Wells continued to record, consistently turning out hits including “Makin’ Believe” (1955), “I Can’t Stop Loving You” (1958), “Mommy For A Day” (1959), “Heartbreak U.S.A.” (1961), and “Password” (1964). Duets with Red Foley such as “One by One” (1954) and “As Long As I Live” (1955) also topped the charts.
Throughout her career Wells had over twenty number one hits, a feat which earned her the undisputed title of the “Queen of Country Music,” and her solo stardom paved the way for every female country performer to follow her from Loretta Lynn to Emmylou Harris. Wells entered the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1976. The Kitty Wells/Johnny Wright Museum in Madison features items from the couple’s years in show business.
Mary A. Bufwack and Robert K. Oermann, Finding Her Voice: Women in Country Music (1993)