Kitty Wells, Queen of Country Music, Dead at 92
Wells unexpectedly catapulted into stardom at 33 when she recorded her legendary 1952 hit "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels."
“I wasn’t expecting it to make a hit,” she told the Nashville Scene newspaper in 1999. “I just thought it was another song.”
In fact, Wells recorded "Honky Tonk Angels" just to collect her union wage of $125 and had planned immediately after to forgo her musical ambitions to become a housewife. However, the song's lyrics struck a chord with female listeners everywhere, especially those who were outraged at country crooner Hank Thompson's song "Wild Side of Life," which blamed the sexual prowess of a woman for breaking up a man's marriage.
In a postwar era where divorce rates were increasing and women were beginning to experiment with their sexual and social freedoms, Wells' melodic lament proved to be a pro-feminist critique of Thompson's "Wild Side."
The refrain of "Honky Tonk Angels" is as follows:
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
Wells may have sang the song convincingly, but according to authors Mary A. Bufwack and Robert K. Oermann, who wrote Finding Her Voice: Women in Country Music, 1800-2000, she was the furthest from a good girl gone wrong.
“She was always proper, always dignified,” they stated. “She dressed in prewar gingham instead of pantsuits, flamboyant Western garb or satin costumes.”
The ordained "Queen of Country Music" is survived by a daughter, son, eight grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren, and five great-great-grandchildren.