Jean Shepard. Is she a legend, an icon, a ground-breaking female artist who cut the strings and expanded boundaries for women in country music, and a member of the Grand Ole Opry? If you answered yes, then you know it still does not do justice to this great classic country singer. She stood her ground when country music started getting a pop edge. Jean Shepard is a true living legend, and has made history numerous times in her fifty plus years in the country music world.
"The Grand Lady Of The Grand Ole Opry," is what you will hear most people refer to Jean Shepard when talking about her life and extraordinary career. Born Ollie Imogene Shepard in Pauls Valley, Oklahoma, November 21, 1933, Jean's family moved to Visalia, California after World War II. Once she settle in, Jean and some high school friends started a band called "The Melody Ranch Girls." Jean sang and played the up-right bass in the band. One night while playing at "Noble's Melody Ranch," Jean met Hank Thompson, who was also scheduled to perform. He asked her to play with him and later introduced her to Speedy West, and helped her get signed to Capitol Records. Success, however, did not come right away. Over a year later, in 1953, Jean cut a duet song with another up-and-coming California based artist, Ferlin Husky. They recorded "A Dear John Letter," and the rest is history. "A Dear John Letter" not only went to number one on the country charts, but also number five on the pop charts, and established both Jean and Ferlin as artists. Jean's parents actually signed her rights over to Ferlin, so she could go on tour. They had to do this because she was not the legal age of twenty-one, and was not considered an adult. From this point Jean released one hit after another, and used Bill Wood's band, which had guitarist Buck Owens.
By 1955, Jean was an active member of the Ozark Jubilee, but in November she made the switch to the Grand Ole Opry, based in Nashville. During the late 1950's, Jean became involved with fellow Opry star Hawkshaw Hawkins, and the two married on November 26th, 1960. Sadly, Hawkins was killed in the same plane crash that took the lives of Patsy Cline and Cowboy Copas.
Jean took time off from the Opry, but came back by the end of the year. In 1964, she had major success with "Second Fiddle (To An Old Guitar)" and her career was on fire again. In 1968, Jean married Benny Birchfield and they are married to this day. Throughout the years, she's had major success, but her last hit was in 1973 with Bill Anderson's "Slippin' Away."
Jean Shepard remains an active member in the country music world, and is a fan favorite of the Grand Ole Opry. She teamed with fellow Opry Stars Jan Howard, Jeannie Seely and Skeeter Davis, and released an album called The Grand Lady's Of the Grand Ole Opry. Jean still releases music to this day, but on smaller, independent labels. Wherever you see Jean, she is always inviting people to come to Nashville and see her at the Opry, and will even invite you back stage.
Every time you meet her, it is like a new experience. Jean makes you feel welcomed and involved. Jean truly enjoys her fans and there will never be anyone like her.
Below is a list of Jean's "Hit Songs," "The Year," and the "Chart Number."
1953 "A Dear John Letter" (with Ferlin Husky) #1
1955 "A Satisfied Mind" #4
1955 "Beautiful Lies" #4
1955 "I Thought of You" #10
1955 "Take Possession" #13
1958 "I Want to Go Where No One Knows Me" #18
1959 "Have Heart, Will Love" #30
1964 "Second Fiddle (To An Old Guitar)" #5
1965 "Someone's Gotta Cry" #30
1965 "A Tear Dropped By" #38
1966 "I'll Take the Dog" (with Ray Pillow) #9
1966 "Many Happy Hangovers To You" #13
1966 "If Teardrops Were Silver" #10
1967 "Heart, We Did All We Could" #12
1967 "Your Forevers Don't Last Very Long" #16
1968 "A Real Good Woman" #36
1968 "An Old Bridge" #52
1969 "Seven Lonely Days" #18
1970 "Then He Touched Me" #8
1970 "Another Lonely Night" #12
1973 "Slippin' Away" #4
1974 "At The Time" #13
1974 "I'll Do Anything It Takes (To Stay With You)" #17
1975 "The Tip Of My Fingers" #16