In Memoriam: Kitty Wells, 1919-2012

Just a few weeks shy of her 93rd birthday, the Queen of Country Music has passed away.

Kitty Wells was the first female country superstar, and for many years, the only consistent female hit-maker.

She also started a long tradition of controversial female records being banned at country radio.  Her answer song to “The Wild Side of Life” spent six weeks at #1 in 1952, and her name would forever be associated with “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels.”  Indeed, the record made such a big impact that many don’t even know it was an answer song in the first place.


Her other big classic was “Making Believe”, which spent an astonishing 15 weeks at #2 in 1955.


Wells’ trailblazing career landed her at #9 on Country Universe’s 100 Greatest Women feature back in 2007.  You can read her entry here.

Rest in Peace, Miss Kitty Wells.





  1. Thank you for posting this so quickly, Kevin. I believe you’ve scooped CMT on reporting Kitty’s passing.

    I’d never heard of Kitty Wells until I began researching country music in 2005. My goodness, I’d been missing out on some amazing songs. As you note above, she started the tradition of female country singers tackling controversial topics–and it’s telling that fans clamored for more even when country radio stations banned her songs for just talking back to the widely accepted male/female double standard. Record companies wouldn’t release full albums by female singers back in the 1950s–“women can’t sell records,” they always said–until Kitty Wells proved them wrong, wrong, wrong.

    I was fortunate to see Kitty at the Country Music Hall of Fame in August 2008. CMHOF had a wonderful exhibit on her career and music, and she was there in person for the opening day of the exhibit. In her late 80s then, she still held the entire auditorium spellbound during the 90-minute interview. She made us laugh several times when she politely dismissed “nonsense” questions from her interviewer.

    Rest in peace, Kitty…and thank you.

  2. Very sad news. How I’ve loved her music. Words fail to describe what she did for country music, or the paths she blazed for the long succession of outstanding female talent that succeeded her.

    Thanks for such a fine tribute, Kevin! It’s always great to revisit her classic songs.

  3. A great tribute to the country music world’s first real female superstar. It’s kind of easy to forget the impact she had at a time when women were still expected to conform, and thankfully Kevin has given us a reminder of how big a deal she was, and continued to be even after her hit-making days slowed down in the 1970s, and beyond even the country music world itself.

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