Sign up for newsletter
 

Hall of famer Jean Shepard dies

Sunday, September 25, 2016 – Country Music Hall of Famer Jean Shepard, who was a member of the Grand Ole Opry for six decades, died Sunday at 82.

Shepard was an American honky tonk singer-songwriter who became the first female country artist to sell more than a million copies with her 1953 duet with Ferlin Huskey, "A Dear John Letter." Shepard released 24 albums between 1956 and 1981.

Ollie Imogene Shepard was born Nov. 21,1933 in Pauls Valley, Okla. and raised in Visalia, Cal. She played bass in the Melody Ranch Girls, an all-female band formed in 1948, as a teenager.

Hank Thompson discovered Shepard several years later, leading to Shepard signing with Capitol Records in 1952.

Shepard cut four songs at her first session with Jimmy Bryant, Speedy West, Cliffie Stone and Billy Strange. Shepard's first single for the label, "Crying Steel Guitar Waltz," failed to chart.

"A Dear John Letter" topped the country charts the following year and also hit number four on the pop charts. The duo's follow-up, "Forgive Me John," reached the top 10 on the country chart and the top 25 on the pop chart.

In 1955, Shepard joined ABC TV's Ozark Jubilee and recorded her first studio album, "Songs of a Love Affair," written by Shepard. "A Satisfied Mind" became her first solo top 10 single, reaching number 4. She also had hits that year with "Take Possession"and "Beautiful Lies." Its flip side, "I Thought of You," also reached the top 10.

That led to an invitation to join the Grand Ole Opry in 1955. The only other females were Kitty Wells and Minnie Pearl.

Shepard's popularity waned with the emergence of the more mainstream Nashville Sound. Shepard charted twice on the singles charts between 1956 and 1963.

In 1960, Shepard married fellow Opry star Hawkshaw Hawkins. Hawkins, who met Shepard on Ozark Jubilee, died 1963 in the same plane crash that killed Patsy Cline and Cowboy Copas. Shepard gave birth to their son, Hawkshaw Jr., one mont later. She later married country musician Benny Birchfield, who survives.

Shepard enjoyed a resurgence. She hit the top 10 in 1964 with "Second Fiddle (To an Old Guitar)." In 1966, Shepard recorded a duet with Ray Pillow, "I'll Take the Dog," which went as high as number 9 on the Billboard country chart. Later that year, "If the Teardrops Were Silver" hit the top 10, and "Many Happy Hangovers to You" went top 15..

Shepard continued recording and having hit singles.

In the early 1970s, Shepard switched to United Artists Records.Her first single for the label in 1973, Bill Anderson's "Slippin' Away," reached fourth on the Billboard country chart. In 1975, Shepard recorded songs written by Bill Anderson, "Poor Sweet Baby (And Ten More Bill Anderson Songs)."

Shepard went with smaller labels, continuing to release albums and singles.

In 2011, Shepard was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. On NOv. 21, 2015, Shepard became the first female performer at the Opry for 60 years. She retired that night.

CD reviews for Jean Shepard

Classic Capitol Recordings, 1952-1964
Jean Shepard is one of the all-time greats and certainly one of the most significant girl singers to come out of Bakersfield or anywhere. With this collection, Shepard is introduced to a whole new generation of listeners. Shepard is a woman with strength and character, relying on substance, rather than fluff to get her music across. Discovered by Hank Thompson in Bakersfield as a teen where she played bass and sang with the Melody Ranch Girls, Shepard spent her first years on the West Coast, an »»»
Editorial: Walking the talk – When names like Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Waylon and the Hag are invoked, you're talking hard core country. These are the touchstones of country , the guys who made country music what it was and still is (or maybe can be). When these folks would sing about being down-and-out and the rough-and-tumble, they knew of what they were singing about. Fast forward a few years to the country singers of today. »»»
Concert Review: Kristofferson gives insight, but no easy answers – When they say music gets better with age, they're not always just talking about songs alone; sometimes they're also referring to the listener. When Kris Kristofferson sings, "Well, I woke up Sunday morning/With no way to hold my head that didn't hurt," to smartly open "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down," he... »»»
Concert Review: No sugarcoating, Welch dishes out an experience – Gillian Welch (accompanied, as always, by master guitarist David Rawlings), celebrated her "The Harrow & The Harvest" album with a powerful night of music. She apologized many times for the utter unhappiness expressed through this album's songs, admitting it's "not the most chipper album" at one point.... »»»
Subscribe to Country News Digest Country News Digest      Follow Country Standard Time on twitter CST      Visit Country Standard Time on Facebook CST

Elsewhere in the news

Currently at the CST blogs

Hillman bides his time Legends don't come any more legendary than Chris Hillman. The roll call of bands that comprises Hillman's half century in music reads like a wing exhibit at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame; Byrds, Flying Burrito Brothers, Manassas, the Souther Hillman Furay Band, the Desert Rose Band,... »»»
The Cadillac Three creates its "Legacy" William Shakespeare noted a few centuries back that a rose by any other name would be equally aromatic, and that general idea has musical implications as well. The Cadillac Three knows a thing or two about maintaining a sonic identity after a name change;... »»»
With Stanley and Watson, sound isn't elementary Those aware of the late Owsley "Bear" Stanley likely know him for one of two reasons - his pioneering work manufacturing lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) in San Francisco during the mid-to-late 1960s and his role as an innovative sound engineer. Most notably, Bear worked...... »»»
First Cigarette CD review - First Cigarette
The stunning vocal of Travis Meadows on the opening track, "Sideways," brims with honesty, pain and hard-earned wisdom as he offers a blend of confession and advice, stimulated by an experience at an adolescent addiction treatment center. Meadows, like many, is one of those Nashville songwriters ("Riser" for Dierks Bentley and "What We Ain't Got" for Jake Owen), but is finding his own voice relatively late in life. »»»
The Long Awaited Album CD review - The Long Awaited Album
When last we visited a new album from Steve Martin & the Steep Canyon Rangers, 2011's "Rare Bird Alert," we found a cohesive, focused collection of bluegrass; it was an expansive, artistic creation that only benefited the bluegrass community. A subsequent live album (strikingly entitled "Live") presented a continued refinement of this pairing's chemistry.  »»»
Bidin' My Time CD review - Bidin' My Time
With all the memorable music Chris Hillman created with The Byrds, Flying Burrito Brothers and Desert Rose Band, he has nothing left to prove. He's a both a bona fide rock and country icon. Tom Petty, who owes an obvious debt to Hillman's...  »»»
Turmoil & Tinfoil CD review - Turmoil & Tinfoil
Billy Strings. It takes a lot of nerve to adopt such a nom de plume (in this case nom de guerre might be more appropriate) in the bluegrass world, but Billy Strings is up to the challenge, and more. Strings (real name William Apostol) grew up in Michigan, surrounded by musicians. »»»
Jon Langford's Four Lost Souls CD review - Jon Langford's Four Lost Souls
Jon Langford shifts musical gears as effortlessly as a European race car driver on a Grand Prix course. Looking at the totality of his career (The Mekons, Waco Brothers, Skull Orchard, the Three Johns, Wee Hairy Beasties, Pine Valley Cosmonauts, Bad Luck Jonathan, God knows what else), it hardly seems as though one peg could have fit into all those oddly shaped holes... »»»