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Kitty Wells
Kitty Wells.jpg
1974 publicity shot of Kitty Wells
Background information
Birth name Ellen Muriel Deason
Also known as The Queen of Country Music; The Clock Stopper
Born (1919-08-30)August 30, 1919
Nashville, Tennessee, U.S.
Died July 16, 2012(2012-07-16) (aged 92)
Madison, Tennessee
Genres Country, honky tonk, Nashville sound, gospel
Occupation(s) Singer-songwriter
Instruments Vocals, guitar
Years active 1949–2000
Labels RCA Victor, Decca / MCA, Capricorn, Rubocca, Southern Tracks
Associated acts Red Foley, Webb Pierce, Johnnie Wright, Ruby Wright, Loretta Lynn, Jean Stafford

Ellen Muriel Deason (August 30, 1919 – July 16, 2012), known professionally as Kitty Wells, was an American pioneering female country music singer. She broke down a female barrier in country music with her 1952 hit recording, "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels" which also made her the first female country singer to top the U.S. country charts, and turned her into the first female country superstar.

“It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels” would also be her first of several pop cross over hits. Wells is the only female artist to be awarded top female vocalist awards for 14 consecutive years. Her chart topping hits continued until the mid-1960s, paving the way for and inspiring a long list of female country singers who came to prominence in the 1960s.

Wells ranks as the sixth-most successful female vocalist in the history of the Billboard country charts. In 1976, she was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. In 1991, she became the third country music artist, after Roy Acuff and Hank Williams, and the eighth woman to receive the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

Her accomplishments earned her the nickname "Queen of Country Music".


Kitty Wells 1957
Kitty Wells 1957

Wells was born in Nashville, Tennessee and began singing as a child, learning guitar from her father. Her father, Charles, and his brother were musicians and her mother, Myrtle, was a gospel singer. As a teenager, she sang with her sisters, who performed under the name the Deason Sisters on a local radio station beginning in 1936.

Wells married Johnnie Wright in 1937. Johnnie died in 2011, aged 97. Kitty and Johnnie had three children, Ruby, Bobby, and Carol Sue.

Johnnie Wright, Kitty Wells, Jack Anglin
Johnnie Wright, Kitty Wells, Jack Anglin 1957

Carol Sue released a single with Wells in the mid-'50s titled "How Far Is Heaven", which peaked at No. 11 on the Billboard Country Chart. While two of Wells' children pursued music careers, Carol Sue did not, but she recorded numerous songs with her family, including performing with Ruby as The Wright Sisters.

Wells and her husband were lifelong members of the Church of Christ. The couple celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary in 2007 by visiting the small courthouse at which they were married in Franklin, Kentucky. Kitty and Johnnie were married 74 years before Johnnie’s death in 2011.


Kitty Wells died on July 16, 2012 in Madison, Tennessee, from complications of a stroke. She was 92. She is buried at Spring Hill Cemetery in Nashville, Tennessee, alongside her husband.

Achievements and Honors

Kitty Wells Queen of Country Music award
Kitty Wells Queen of Country Music award
  • First solo female country artist to have a number 1 record on the charts
  • First female country artist to sell one million records
  • First woman to headline a major tour
  • First woman to headline a syndicated television variety show
  • Voted top country female artist for 14 consecutive years
  • Holds record for single at number 2 on the charts with "Makin' Believe" for 15 weeks
  • Country Music Hall of Fame Inductee (1976)
  • NARAS Governor's Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Recording Industry (1981)
  • Academy of Country Music's Pioneer Award (1985)
  • NARAS Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award (1991)
  • The Music City News Living Legend Award (1993)
  • Native American Music Hall of Fame Inductee (2002)
  • National Recording Registry at the Library of Congress for "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels" (2008)

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