As a role model for younger artists, Wells held recognition for many firsts in her career. In the 1950s, she became the first female country artist to sell a million copies of a record. She had 35 titles in the Billboard Top Ten, and she put 81 singles on the chart. Some of those include “A Woman Half My Age,” “Will Your Lawyer Talk to God?” and “Mommy for a Day.” Wells topped the chart for six weeks and began the run of 35 top-10 hits through 1965.
The talented icon was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1976, and was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1989 for “Honky-Tonk Angels Medley,” which she recorded with k.d. lang, Loretta Lynn and Brenda Lee.
According to her Artist’s Hall of Fame biography, as a 33-year-old wife and mother, her recording of “It wasn’t God who made Honky Tonk Angels” made her a star.
Christopher Morris wrote for Variety Magazine, “[Kitty Wells] Defined the role of women in country music.”
Morris also stated, “One of Wells’ last high-profile major label appearances came in 1974, when Phil Walden’s Capricorn Records issued ̔Forever Young,̓ which featured the veteran singer backed by members of the Allman Brothers Band, the label’s top rock act. The title track was a Bob Dylan cover.”
That song became recognizable today as the theme song of the popular television series, “Parenthood.”
“…it was the intense and piercing style of Kitty Wells, with her gospel-touched vocals and tearful restraint that resonated with country audiences of the time and broke the industry barriers for women,” Morris continued.
Wells was recognized with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1991, and was the first female country singer honored with the award.
Country music legend, Loretta Lynn posted a statement on her web site saying, “Kitty Wells will always be the greatest female country singer of all times. She was my hero… ”
Another revered country singer, Barbara Mandrell said: “Kitty Wells was every female country music performer’s heroine.”
Wells lost her husband of more than 70 years, Johnnie Wright, last year. Her survivors are her son and two daughters, eight grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren and five great-great-grandchildren. Wells passed away at her home in Madison, Tenn. after complications resulting from a stroke.