Monday, July 16, 2012

KItty Wells

It was reported today that Kitty Wells has died. Wells 1952 hit "It wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels" was the first song by a female to top the country music charts. Wells paved the way for later generations of women in country music: Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, and many others owe her a debt of gratitude.  Her wikipedia entry reports that she is the sixth best selling female artists in country music.

There were women stars in country music before Wells--Maybelle Carter, Rose Maddox, and Patsy Montana come to mind,  but Wells was at another level and duration.    I fear some obits may not get this right.

Well's defining song "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels" is the greatest answer song in American popular music. It outsold Hank Thompson's "The Wild Side of Life." For a while, Wells' song was banned by the Grand Ole Opry and radio stations. That fate doesn't seem to have befallen Thompson's disc.
 Here's "The Wild Side of Life" performed by Hank Thompson in a guitar shop, decades after the
western-swingish original
Both songs share a melody with Roy Acuff's 1939 "Great Speckled Bird" and the 1929 Carter Family's "I'm Thinking Tonight of My Blues Eyes.

There are at least two other country songs written to this tune: Reno & Smiley's “I'm Using My Bible for a Roadmap,” and Townes Van Zandt's “Heavenly Houseboat Blues.” Rock historian Nick Tosches say that the melody is an ancient British tune.

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