When we began this blog one of our intentions was to provide a glimpse of daily life in Nashville in all its many shapes and colors. So, keeping that in mind, today’s entry comes directly from the seedier, crime side.
If Kitty Wells was the recognized “Queen of Country Music,” Jean Shepard was not far behind her. This groundbreaking Pioneer for women in Country music blazed trails not seen before her. She also recorded the first post-World War Two song by a female Country Artist to sell more than a million copies, the 1953 Classic Duet with Ferlin Husky known as “A Dear John Letter”. This recording became a major Crossover Pop Music Hit as well.
While a bassplayer for the Melody Ranch Girls, Jean Shepard was discovered by Hank Thompson, who helped her get signed to the Capitol Records label in 1952.
Jean Shepard joined the Ozark Jubilee, and after recording a series of Top 10 Hits, including her first Solo Hit “A Satisfied Mind,” joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1955. She remained a member of that fabled institution for more than sixty years, until her death on September 25, 2016 from Parkinson’s Disease. She was the first woman to accomplish this feat.
Well known as a “staunch traditionalist,” and a Honky-Tonk Singer during the popularity of the Nashville Sound era, Jean Shepard became very influential in the Bakersfield Sound Movement along with Buck Owens and Merle Haggard.
Jean Shepard also served as President of the Association of Country Entertainers that intended to keep Country music pure and opposed the Pop Music influences of the time.
A triple-stabbing at the Hendersonville home of Jean Shepard’s widower, Benny Birchfield, occurred around 3am, Saturday morning, December 17, and has left two people dead. Birchfield was wounded in the attack, but, has undergone surgery and is recuperating in a Hendersonville hospital.
Best known for his tenor harmonies with the popular Bluegrass group known as The Osborne Brothers, Benny Birchfield, who married Jean Shepard in 1968, also played for several years with Roy Orbison. He would later become his Road Manager and Bus Driver.
The deceased include 21-year-old Travis Sanders and Birchfield’s 18-year-old granddaughter Icie Hawkins.
According to SGT Jim Vaughn of the Hendersonville Police Department, no motive for this attack is presently being provided.
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The Nashville Freelancers
***Brett Matthew West is a Nashvillian and a long time Freelance Writer. His myriad of feature articles have been published in a vast array of newspapers and magazines around the United States. He also possesses an extensive online presence for his Short Stories.***