This week's Monday Mourning is Jean Shepard and the obituary below is from the NYTimes:
Jean Shepard, a mainstay of the Grand Ole Opry whose feisty honky-tonk songs of the 1950s and ’60s paved the way for the brash, assertive style of singers like Loretta Lynn, died on Sunday in Gallatin, Tenn. She was 82.
The cause was complications of Parkinson’s and heart disease, her husband, Benny Birchfield, said.
Ms. Shepard, who grew up on the country blues of Jimmie Rodgers and the western swing of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, brought a freewheeling, cheeky style to the eternal themes of heartache, cheating and marital discord, planting the flag for independent women.
“Stand by your man” became “call out your man” in songs like “The Root of All Evil (Is a Man)” and “Many Happy Hangovers to You.” She suggested she might be ready for a little adventure herself in “Twice the Lovin’ in Half the Time” and dared speak up for women on the wrong side of a love affair in “The Other Woman.”
She was small — “She’d have to stand on a stepladder to pick corn,” one television host said by way of introduction — but her voice was powerful, pure and penetrating, not unlike Webb Pierce’s weapons-grade tenor. She was also an expert yodeler, a skill she showed off in her 1964 hit “Second Fiddle (to an Old Guitar).”
She joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1955 and went on to perform there for more than 60 years. Her biographical entry on the Opry website notes that “there was really no precedent in country music for a young woman recording and touring on her own rather than as a member of a family team, couple, or as a band’s ‘girl singer.’”
Her success as a solo act changed the landscape of country music, opening the door for artists like Ms. Lynn, Patsy Cline and Tammy Wynette.
It was a hard-won victory. At the beginning of her career, she met Hank Williams and told him she wanted to be a country star.
“He said: ‘Oh yeah? Well, there ain’t much room in this business for a woman country singer,’” she recalled in an interview with The Guardian in 2012. “That was the general attitude back then, but it only made me more determined. Weren’t nothing going to stop me doing what I wanted to do, which was singing traditional country music the way it’s supposed to be sung.”
She was born Ollie Imogene Shepard on Nov. 21, 1933, in Pauls Valley, Okla., one of 10 siblings. Her father, Hoyt, and mother, the former Allie Mae Isaacs, were sharecroppers who moved the family to Visalia, Calif., 100 miles north of Bakersfield, when she was 11.
In high school she formed the Melody Ranch Girls, singing and playing a bass fiddle that her parents had paid for by pawning furniture. On Saturday mornings she sang on a local radio station. When Hank Thompson and His Brazos Valley Boys played a concert near Visalia, she was invited onstage to sing. Thompson, impressed, brought her to Capitol Records.
Her second single for the label, “A Dear John Letter” (1953), which she sang with Ferlin Husky, reached No. 1 on the country charts and crossed over to the pop Top 10. After recording her first solo hit, “A Satisfied Mind,” two years later she was on her way, invited to join Red Foley’s ABC variety show “Ozark Jubilee” and the Opry.
Although Ms. Shepard never again reached the summit of the charts, she turned out dozens of Top 10 and Top 40 hits for the next two decades. She had hits with “Beautiful Lies” and “I Thought of You” in 1955, and the following year recorded “Songs of a Love Affair,” one of the first country concept albums.
Her full-tilt honky-tonk style, at odds with the country-pop Nashville sound, kept her struggling for a hit in the late ’50s and early ’60s, however. She rebounded with “Second Fiddle (to an Old Guitar),” and two songs in the Top 10 in 1966, “If Teardrops Were Silver” and a comedy duet with Ray Pillow, “I’ll Take the Dog.”
In 1960 she married the country singer Hawkshaw Hawkins, who died three years later in the plane crash that killed Patsy Cline. She lived in Hendersonville, Tenn. In addition to her husband, Ms. Shepard is survived by her sons Don Hawkins, Harold Hawkins II and Corey Birchfield; her brothers Sonny and Jerry; her sisters Frances Bullock and Carolyn Shepard; 25 grandchildren; and 5 great-grandchildren.
After moving to the United Artists label in 1970, Ms. Shepard recorded her last Top 10 hit, the Bill Anderson song “Slippin’ Away.” In later years she toured extensively. She was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2011.
An ardent champion of traditional country music, Ms. Shepard served as president of the Association of Country Entertainers, formed in 1974 after the Country Music Association named Olivia Newton-John female vocalist of the year.
“She’s a very sweet lady, I’m sure,” she told The Edmonton Journal in 2012, “but what she sang wasn’t country music.”