Ellen Muriel Deason was born in 1919 to Charles and Myrtle Wells. in Nashville, Tennessee. One of eight siblings, she learned to play guitar and sing with her father. Charles, and his brother were musicians and Myrtle, was a gospel singer. In 1936, Ellen aged 17, she sang in a group called Deason Sisters with her sisters and who performed on a local radio station. A year later she was married to aspiring country music star Johnnie Wright, (Johnnie & Jack).
Ellen Wells sang with Johnnie and his sister Louise as Johnnie Right and the Harmony Girls, before he eventually teamed up with Jack Anglin to become the duo Johnnie & Jack. Ellen changed her stage name to Kitty Wells and toured with the duo, occasionally performing backup vocals. Johnnie and Jack became very popular and worked with Roy Acuff and the Smoky Mountain Boys. Acuff was concerned not to make Kitty the show's headliner, because he thought women could not sell country music records.
At the time promoters were not keen to promote female singers, and after RCA Victor released a couple of her records in 1949 and they failed to chart, she was dropped from the label in 1950.
Just as Kitty was thinking of giving up on the idea of being a country singer, she was asked by Paul Cohen ( Decca Records) to record a rebuttal song, written by Jay Miller, to Hank Thompson's "The Wild Side of Life". She was offered the $125 union scale recording fee and went to Owen Bradley's studio where she was accompanied by Johnnie Wright (bass guitar), Jack Anglin (rhythm guitar). Paul Warren (fiddle) and Shot Jackson (steel guitar). Despite being banned by many radio stations and the Grand Ole Opry for controversial lyrics, "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels" took off in 1952, selling more than 800,000 copies and enough to make it the first number one song by a female artist on the country music chart. The single also crossed over to Billboard's pop charts, peaking at No. 27. "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky-Tonk Angels" outsold Thompson's "The Wild Side of Life," and launched Kitty Wells to stardom.
Another two Top 10 hits followed for the Queen of Country Music with "Hey Joe" and "Cheatin's A Sin" in the same year.
Kitty Wells teamed up with Red Foley in 1954 to sing a duet "One By One", It went to No. 1 on the Billboard Country Chart and this led to a string of hit singles from the duo within the next two decades, including 1954's "As Long as I Live", which peaked at No. 3.
As a solo artist she had two major hits in 1954, including "Release Me" (#8) with "Making Believe" (#2) in 1955. She became the first female country singer to issue an LP in 1956, with Kitty Wells' Country Hit Parade, and chart success with "Searching (For Someone Like You)", (#3) A year later she released her album Winner of Your Heart which was the first of many and enjoyed top three chart success with "Three Ways (To Love You)" ( #3) in 1957, and "I Can't Stop Loving You" (#3) in 1958.
Now an established star of country music, Kitty carried on into the 60s, forging a pathway for others to follow. She was back at the top of the charts with "Heartbreak U.S.A." (1961), this time backed by the Jordanaires. More chart success came in the following year with "Unloved Unwanted,” (#5), "Will Your Lawyer Talk to God" (#8), and “We Missed You" (#7). Her album. ‘Especially for You, ‘ set the trend for the rest of the decade by charting in the Top Country Albums chart. In the midst of the English Invasion, more solo success came with the singles "This White Circle on My Finger” (#7) and “Password”, (#4). Kitty was back in the charts with "Finally," singing again with Webb Pierce.
Now competing for chart success with the very female singers she allowed to break through, the latter half of the 60s were less commercially successful for Kitty. She did enjoy chart success with “You Don't Hear" (#4) and "Meanwhile, Down at Joe's" (#9) in 1965; then a year later “It's All Over but the Crying", peaked at No. 14 on the country charts. Her albums continued to sell well and Kitty recorded a duet album with husband Johnnie Wright called, We'll Stick Together. She also reunited with Red Foley for a studio album.
In 1969, she became the first female country star to have her own syndicated television show. However, at a time when trends in popular music were changing, The Kitty Wells/Johnnie Wright Family Show, only ran for one season.
She left the Decca label in 1973, shortly after they became MCA Records. Kitty signed with Capricorn Records, and recorded Forever Young. a blues-flavored album which featured backing from the Allman Brothers Band and the Marshall Tucker Band. In 1979, at age 60, she was back on the Billboard charts, "I Thank You for the Roses".
She remained popular as a live performer and continued to give concerts up until the early 2000s. Sadly, Kitty Wells passed away in 2012 following a stroke. She was 92 years old. The innovator of female country music influenced countless number of popular musicians who followed in her footsteps. Tragically, much of Recorded material was lost in the 2008 Universal fire