It’s hard to imagine Dolly Parton having trouble filling anybody’s shoes, but when she replaced Norma Jean on The Porter Wagoner Show in 1967, she was stepping into very high heels, indeed. For seven years, Norma Jean had been a staple on the popular television show, and in a genre that was still running very low on female stars, Jean was one of the brightest ones out there.
A childhood friend of Wanda Jackson, Norma Jean caught the show biz bug early, even having her own radio show at the age of twelve. Heavily influenced by the sound of Kitty Wells, Norma Jean was already touring Oklahoma as a teenager in the fifties, and a stint on the Ozark Jubilee led to a deal with Columbia records. Her early singles fizzled, and when the show was canceled, she was able to reach out to an artist she had met on the set.