R.I.P. Kitty Wells (If You Didn’t Know Her, You Should Have)By Noisey Staff
Nashville-born country star Kitty Wells was a badass. She did country back when country was beautiful songs about love, loss, and heartbreak, filled with crooning string instruments and violins. Kitty Wells was way before Kid Rock and Carrie Underwood, way before country became the tacky, in-your-face beer-and-boobs sing-a-long is can be today (not all new country is bad, but for the most part, please.)
As we mentioned earlier, Kitty Wells was a badass. She started a country group called Deason Sisters with her cousin in the 1930’s. They shared same fame, even hosting a popular radio show together (which, of course, in the 30’s, was the equivalent of being freakin’ Oprah). A few years later, she started a solo career, but her first attempts at country hits failed as she was overpowered by the male-dominated country music industry. Wells didn’t give up, though. She continued to sing back-ups in her husband’s band, Johnnie Wright and the Harmony Girls, while continuing to write alone. Then, in 1952 she released the single “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels,” which was a direct response to Hank Williams' song “The Wild Side of Life.” While Williams' song blamed his wild ways and debaucheries on the woman who cheated on him and broke his heart, Wells' song calls bullshit on this blame-game and forced Williams to take responsibility for his own actions:
“It wasn't God who made Honky Tonk angels,
As you said in the words of your song
Too many times married men think they're still single,
That has caused many a good girl to go wrong.”
Like any good song-for-song battle, Wells' lyrics are literal and point out exactly how she feels about Williams' song. No holding back. Wells secured her place as the preeminent female in country music. She talked openly about cheating, love, and sex in a genre that didn’t think that kind of thing should come from the mouths’ of babes. She was like the Joan Rivers of country music, breaking the rules, saying what she wasn’t allowed to say, but people adored her bravery. Up until the introduction of Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn, Wells had no competition in her field of song.
R.I.P. Kitty Wells. You were a true, blue Nashville badass.