Kitty Wells was a country music legend who first achieved stardom in 1952 when she became the first solo female artist to hit the top of the country charts with her song “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels.” She was 33 years old at the time. Billboard ranks her as the sixth most successful female vocalist in the history of country music.
Born Ellen Muriel Deason in 1919 in Nashville, Tennessee, to a gospel-singer mother and musician father, Wells sang on local radio stations as early as 1936 with her sisters as the Deason Sisters. At age 18, she married Johnnie Wright, who eventually became part of the duo Johnnie & Jack. She adopted the stage name Kitty Wells soon after.
Her “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels” received a ban from the Grand Ole Opry due to its lyrics, considered racy at the time. Well went on to have other hits, including a duet with Red Foley entitled “One by One,” “Making Believe,” “Lonely Side of Town” and “I Can’t Stop Loving You.”
The Country Museum Hall of Fame inducted Wells into its ranks in 1976, and she received the Lifetime Achievement Awards at the Grammys in 1991. Wells died in 2012 following a stroke, leaving behind a daughter, a son and many grandchildren.