Sunday, September 25, 2016
Grand Ole Lady Jean passes
Shepard celebrated 60 years of membership at the Grand Ole Opry on Nov. 21, 2015. It ended up being her final Opry appearance as her health began to deteriorate afterward. Last week she entered hospice care. She is the only female to reach 60 years of membership at the Grand Ole Opry.
The Oklahoma-born, California-raised singer scored hits in the 1950s and ’60 with songs like “I Want to Go Where No One Wants Me” and “Beautiful Lies.” “A Dear John Letter,” a duet with Ferlin Husky, made her a star however Shepard couldn’t tour to promote the single. She was a minor at the time, and you had to be 21 years old to leave the state in those days.
In 1960 Shepard married fellow Opry star Hawkshaw Hawkins, and was pregnant with the couple’s second child when he was killed in a plane crash three years later. She would return to the stage and studio, recording hit songs like “Second Fiddle (To an Old Guitar),” “If Teardrops Were Silver,” and Bill Anderson’s “Slippin’ Away. Her last hit song came in 1975 when “The Tip of My Fingers” peaked inside the Top 20.
Many of her hits are featured on a 2 CD set "Country Music : Pure & Simple" released earlier this year by Humphead Records.
Shepard would become a Country Music Hall of Fame member in 2011. She is survived by husband Benny Birchfield and sons Don Robin Hawkins, Harold Franklin Hawkins II and Corey Birchfield.
“The Opry family is truly saddened by the news of Jean’s passing,” Grand Ole Opry general manager Pete Fisher said. “Although we will miss Jean’s presence on the Opry stage, she has left us the wonderful gift of her music which will be remembered for generations to come.”
Her loss will be felt far beyond The Grand Ole Opry. Several Scottish acts, including Ruby Rendall & Colorado were introduced by Jean onto the Opry stage. She recorded several duets with Gerry Ford.
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