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Kitty Wells Dead at 92

Michael Ochs Archives

Kitty Wells, the “Queen of Country Music,” died today (July 16) after complications from a stroke. She was 92 years old.

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.

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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.

Watch Kitty Wells Perform ‘It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels’

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