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RIP Kitty Wells: Onetime Queen of Country Music Dies at 92

Legendary Nashville singer Kitty Wells has died at age 92, according to reports from Associated Press within the past hour.

Wells was the first female to top the country charts with her song "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky-tonk Angels" in 1952. The song was a reply to Hank Thompson's "The Wild Side of Life," which included the lyric, "I didn't now God made honky-tonk angels."

In fact, Wells represented one of the first feminist expressions in the male-dominated field of country music when she sang, "It's a shame that all the blame is on us women."

Wells, born Ellen Muriel Deason in Nashville in 1919, was married for 60 years to singer Johnny Wright, who gave her the stage name of Kitty Wells. She was the top female vocalist in Nashville from 1953 to 1967, when she was finally passed by Tammy Wynette.

Inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1976, Wells was the sixth highest-selling female vocalist in the history of country music with such hits as "Paying For That Back Street Affair" (1953), "Hey, Joe" (1953), "Cheatin's A Sin" (1953), "Release Me" (1954), "Making Believe" (1955), "Searching (For Someone Like You)" (1956), "I Can't Stop Loving You" (1958) and dozens of others before her final charting single in 1980, a cover of Thompson's "Wild Side of Life."

She also had two other No. 1 singles, "One By One" (1954) with Red Foley, and "Heartbreak U.S.A." (1961). She was a frequent performer on the Grand Ole Opry.

The cause of death was not revealed, and funeral arrangements are pending in Nashville.

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William Michael Smith