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Brenda Lee was one of the 1960s' most popular artists. Best known for her "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree," her career has spanned over five decades.
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Born Brenda Mae Tarpley on December 11, 1944, in Atlanta Georgia, Brenda Lee's recording career has been going strong since 1947. By the time she was fifteen, Lee was being compared to the legendary Judy Garland and had fans all over the world. Along the way, she has received awards and accolades from the Georgia Music Hall of Fame and the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.
Brenda's parents, Grayce and Reuben, were poor but managed to support their children through carpentry and long hours in the Georgia cotton mills. Brenda sang from the time she was a baby. When her sister entered her into a talent contest when she was three, Brenda won. She continued to sing at local halls and baseball games. When she was only eight years old, Brenda's loving father was tragically killed in a construction accident. Brenda's singing jobs became necessary to the financial survival of her family.
Brenda and her mother Grayce worked tirelessly getting Brenda singing jobs. A local DJ named Peanuts Fairclough shortened her name from Brenda Mae Tarpley to Brenda Lee saying that it would be easier to remember when she was famous. Brenda's mother remarried a man named Jay Rainwater who opened a record store where Brenda sang on weekends. Her first break came in 1955 when she was only ten. She turned down a performing gig in order to meet Country & Western star Red Foley. He was blown away by the little girl's incredibly powerful voice. Foley put her on his television show, "The Junior Jamboree," and Brenda was a sensation when she sang songs like "Jambalya" and the explosive, "Dynamite." From that day on, Brenda was nicknamed, Little Miss Dynamite.
Patsy Cline, Mel Tillis, and George Jones. By 12, she starred at the Grand Ole Opry and in Vegas. In September of 1959, Brenda rocketed to number one on the Rock and Roll charts with, "Sweet Nothings." Although Brenda was making good money, most of it was held in trust until she was 21 due to the Jackie Coogan Law. In 1959, Brenda's stepfather deserted the family leaving them broke. Even though 15-year-old Brenda was touring the world and singing her heart out, Brenda, her mother, her brother and two sisters were forced to live in a trailer park on 75 dollars a month. In 1960, Brenda hit the top of the charts with "I'm Sorry." It was her biggest hit to date and won her both a Grammy nomination and a gold record. She petitioned the court to let her have a little more money and get her family out of the trailer park. She won and bought her mom a house, which subsequently burned down.
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