On Friday July 20, 2012 the “Queen of Country Music” Kitty Wells will be buried in a sure to be well attended funeral. Only there will be those that won’t be able to make it. A few that knew her as more than a “feminist country music godmother to Britney Spears” , those that knew her before she was even a Honky Tonk Angel. To them she was known as “Meryl.”
How do I know this information? Who are these people that referred to the Queen with such a different name? We are her family. Some would consider us distant. I most certainly am as a third cousin. However, ladies like my great aunt “Rity” (Rita Adams Fitzgerald) and my grandmother known as “Toots” (Wilma Adams Gier) were indeed much closer.
Kitty’s mother (Myrtle Street Deason) known as “Aunt Myrtle” is my great grandmother’s (Elnora Street Adams) known as “Nonnie” sister. (Can you tell my family has a thing with nicknames yet?) Although Nonnie was Kitty’s aunt she was more like a sister to Kitty because of only a May to September birth separating them.
Because my grandparents were more like parents to me in so many ways I was privy to a closer relationship to my “greats” as I call them than most grandchildren would be. Greats being the siblings of my grandparents. And let me tell you with thirteen greats I had plenty to get to know.
|Rity and Toots 2012|
Among some of the amazing side effects of knowing my greats is the stories…especially now with Kitty’s passing. Ritty and Toots can’t attend the funeral or visitation because of their own age and health but that doesn’t mean that the mourning isn’t felt. In fact as when anyone in our family passes memories and stories flow like a tap in an Irish pub.
|Bri and Aunt Rity 2012|
It’s because of those stories and my love for Rity and Toots that I wrote this blog post. If you Google Kitty Wells you only find a brief story of how she started playing guitar at age 14, began singing as a child, and was part of the “Deason Sisters.”
Well there was a whole other side to Kitty that has been buried under what gets the most hits in an article and the amazing accomplishments that she achieved. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with that information but people deserve to know just a few of the things I’ve learned.
Like the fact when it rained her family would sit on the porch and just sing. Music created in tune with the melody of rain hitting a tin roof, with hands hitting thighs, booted feet stomping a rhythm picked up and passed from one song to another by a family of mothers, fathers, aunts, sisters, uncles, brothers and cousins fine-tuned by the sharing of their livelihood.
How if Aunt Myrtle or any of her girls had clothes they no longer needed they would always happily hand them down to my grandmother and her eight other siblings.
Then in a time before cell phones and internet when my great grandmother Nonnie would get the money together. She’d ride the bus into Nashville for a visit with Aunt Myrtle. When she arrived she’d call from the station and often Kitty and and Johnny would come and pick her up and take her to Aunt Myrtles.
One of my personal favorites was from Kitty herself. She explained when she was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame when they traveled and performed often times her family would be in a one room apartment with their band and all their instruments. In that time because of a lack of connected markets they would have to go from each one and worked hard and tirelessly to create a fan base. Once they were successful they started all over again at another.
There are several other stories I’ve been privy to but I’ll stop here. The point I wanted to share was that Kitty Wells didn’t inherit the crown upon her reputation she earned it. Kitty was genuine. Attributes like compassion, humor, charity, and work ethic were core characteristics of who she was as a person. Traits taught among a large extended family that loved her dearly and will miss her.
Disclaimer: Bri Clark in no way represents that she had a close personal relationship with Kitty Wells or her husband or children. Her connection is to those that were close to Kitty, her mother, and sisters.