Dottie West had her first Top 40 hit with "Let Me Off at the Corner" on the country charts in 1963. The next year, her hit song "Here Comes My Baby" won the Grammy for Best Female Country & Western Vocal Performance, the first woman to receive this award. She also became a member of the Grand Ole Opry and continued to build on her early successes, releasing 15 albums in the 1960s.
Singer, songwriter. Born Dorothy Marie Marsh on October 11, 1932, in McMinnville, Tennessee. One of ten children, West grew up to become a country music star. She spent her early years doing chores on her family's small farm. West began performing on the radio as a teenager. She studied music at Tennessee Technological University where she met her future husband, musician and songwriter Bill West. They married in 1953.
The couple landed a recording deal in 1959 with Starday Records and moved to Nashville two years later. West became friends with country music legend Patsy Cline. She got to know other important musicians and songwriters, such as Willie Nelson. She scored her first Top 40 hit with the single "Let Me Off at the Corner" on the country charts in 1963. The next year, her hit song "Here Comes My Baby" won the 1964 Grammy Award for Best Female Country & Western Vocal Performance. West was the first woman to receive this award. She became a member of the Grand Ole Opry at the same time - another sign of her increasingly important role in country music. Only a select group of country music artists are ever asked to join the weekly radio program and perform on its stage.
West continued to build on her early successes, releasing fifteen albums in the 1960s. One of her biggest hits from this era was "Would You Hold It Against Me," featured on the 1966 album Suffer Time. Often wearing simple dresses, West stayed close to her country girl roots. She became known for her sincere-sounding vocals and for taking on all kinds of heartache in her lyrics. She also made hits with other country music performers. On Dottie and Don (1969), West teamed up with Don Gibson. Their song "Rings of Gold" reached the number two spot on the country charts. The two were nominated for the 1969 Vocal Group of the Year Award from the Country Music Association (CMA). They were nominated again the next year for the Vocal Duo of the Year Award.
Personal and Professional Changes
The 1970s brought personal and professional changes in West's life. She divorced her husband and married drummer Byron Metcalf - a much younger man. She also came out with a new image, wearing tight clothes and sexy makeup. She continued making hits, including the 1973 smash "Country Sunshine," which hit the country and pop charts. Starting in the late 1970s, West joined forces with Kenny Rogers on a series of successful duets, including "Every Time Fools Collide" (1978), "All I Ever Need Is You" (1979), and "What Are We Doin' in Love" (1981). West and Rogers won the Best Duo of the Year Award from the CMA for 1978 and 1979.
West's marriage to Metcalf ended in 1981. Two years later, she married Al Winters. Her 1984 album, Just Dottie, scored only two minor country hits: "Let Love Come Lookin' for You" and "We Know Better Now." While her records weren't selling like they used to, West continued to tour and her live performance still drew crowds.
Unfortunately, she ran into some personal and financial difficulty in 1990. She divorced her third husband that year and filed for bankruptcy shortly after. West owed the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) more than $1 million - a debt she could not pay. The IRS seized her property and put it up for auction. Although she lost her home and possessions, West would not be broken by this financial crisis. She attended the auction and signed autographs for fans. She hoped to make a comeback, planning to make a new record and continuing to perform.
West died on September 4, 1991, from injuries she sustained in a car accident. A few days earlier, West was running late for a performance and had car trouble. She accepted a ride from a neighbor. On the way to the show the neighbor lost control of the car, and it flipped over. Many country music stars, such as Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash, attended her funeral to say good-bye to the great performer. With a career that spanned several decades, Dottie West had become a country music legend.
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