Michael Ochs Archives
The future country icon was born Ellen Muriel Deason in Nashville, Tenn., and began her singing career performing with her siblings in a group called the Deason Sisters. As a solo act, Kitty became the first woman to reach No. 1 on the charts, with her now classic hit "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels."
Widely regarded as the top female country artist of her time, Kitty followed her chart-topper with 34 more Top Ten hits in the span of her 30-year career, including "Hey Joe," "Release Me," "Making Believe" and "Repenting." She was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1976 and the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998. Among her many accolades were the Academy of Country Music's Pioneer Award and Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
The singing sensation was married to Johnnie Wright, who was one-half of the duo Johnnie & Jack. He passed away last year. In the late '60s, the couple had their own syndicated TV program, "The Kitty Wells/Johnnie Wright Family Show," which featured frequent appearances by their children.
- Legendary Songwriter Hal David
- Legendary Songwriter Joe South
- Kitty Wells
- Whitney Houston
- The Band's Levon Helm
- Donna Summer
- Davy Jones
- Dick Clark
- Stuart Swanlund of the Marshall Tucker Band
- Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees
- Donald "Duck" Dunn, Bassist for Booker T & the MGs, the Blues Brothers
- Don Cornelius, "Soul Train" Founder
- Adam "MCA" Yauch of the Beastie Boys
- Earl Scruggs
- Etta James
- Men at Work's Greg Ham
Kitty appeared in 1987 on singer k.d. lang's "Honky Tonk Angels Medley," along with Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn. She also contributed guest vocals to 1993's Honky Tonk Angels, a collaborative album by Dolly, Loretta and Tammy Wynette.
The country legend is survived by her daughter, Carol Sue, and son, Bobby. Her daughter, Ruby, preceded her in death.
Funeral services are still pending. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the Goodpasture Christian School in Madison, Tenn., in the name of the Kitty Wells/Johnnie Wright Scholarship Fund.