Jean Shepard Joins the Heavenly Opry Choir

Jean Shepard.jpg

Submitted by Don Graham

Country legend Jean Shepard has passed away at the age of 82. Shepard's first chart appearance was in 1953 as a duet partner with Ferlin Husky on "A Dear John Letter" and its sequel, "Forgive Me John." Shepard and Husky toured the country following their hit singles. In 1955, she had her first solo Top Ten single, "A Satisfied Mind," which was backed by the number 13 hit "Take Possession." Later in the year, she had another Top Ten hit with "Beautiful Lies"/"I Thought of You." Her streak of hit singles led to an invitation to join the Grand Ole Opry in 1956. That same year, she joined Red Foley's Ozark Jubilee and recorded Songs of a Love Affair, arguably the first concept album in country music history. Its 12 songs depict a marriage torn apart by a love affair. 

For nearly ten years after the release of "Beautiful Lies,"

Shepard wasn't able to get a song into the Top Ten. In fact, she had only two Top 40 hits during that period -- "I Want to Go Where No One Knows Me" (#18, 1958) and "Have Heart, Will Love" (#30, 1959). She continued to record and tour -- she was even named the Top Female Singer of 1959 by CashBox -- but nothing was breaking through to the record-buying public. This was primarily because she was a hardcore honky tonk singer in a time that country-pop was ruling the charts. In 1963, her husband Hawkshaw Hawkins died in the same plane crash that killed Patsy Cline. The following year, she returned to the Top Ten with "Second Fiddle (To an Old Guitar)." The song began a string of hits for Shepard.

Although many of them failed to chart in the Top 20, she racked up 15 Top 40 hits between 1965 and 1970, including the Top Ten hits "I'll Take the Dog" (a duet with Ray Pillow, 1966), "If Teardrops Were Silver" (1966), and "Then He Touched Me" (1970).After her hit-making days were done, Shepard recorded much less frequently, but she continued to perform at the Grand Ole Opry and also toured, particularly in the U.K., where she had a strong fan base.

Jean Shepard was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2011, and published her autobiography, Down Through the Years in 2014.

Rest in peace Jean Shepard.