Country music mourns loss of ‘Queen’ Kitty Wells
(CNN) — Country legend Kitty Wells died on Monday due to complications from a stroke, CNN has confirmed. She was 92.
According to a press statement, Wells, who was born Ellen Muriel Deason Wright in Nashville, Tennessee, “passed away peacefully with family by her side.”
Wells is survived by her son, Bobby Wright; her daughter, Sue Wright Sturdivant; eight grandchildren; 12 great-grandchildren; and five great-great-grandchildren, the statement says.
Wells started her career in 1937 with her now-deceased husband Johnnie Wright, and the New York Times calls her an “unlikely and unassuming pioneer,” a singer whose career paved the way for future female country stars.
The turning point was the song “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels,” a single she recorded in 1952 without expectations, the Times says.
With that record, Wells became the first female singer to reach No. 1 on the country charts. It also set off consecutive success that earned her “near-universal acclamation as the Queen of Country Music,” CMT.com reports, noting that it was a “title bestowed on her years before the 1960s heyday of women singers in the field, including Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, Dolly Parton and others.”
Wells continued to hold onto her crown as country’s leading female singer for the next 14 years, a statement says, and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1976.
“Kitty Wells will always be the greatest female country singer of all times. She was my hero. If I had never heard of Kitty Wells, I don’t think I would have been a singer myself,” said Loretta Lynn in a statement posted to her website Monday. “I wanted to sound just like her, but as far as I am concerned, no one will ever be as great as Kitty Wells. She truly is the Queen of Country Music.”
Added “American Idol” alum Kellie Pickler via Twitter, “My heart cries over the loss of Ms Kitty Wells. She is and always will be the true Queen of Country Music.”
Charlie Daniels seconded that thought, tweeting, “A Queen died today. The true Queen of country music,the lady who set the standard for all who followed . Rest in peace Kitty Wells.”
The Grand Ole Opry also paid their condolences, writing (along with a video of one of Wells’ performances), “We will always remember the legendary Kitty Wells. Our thoughts are with her loved ones.”
CNN’s Jane Caffrey contributed to this report.