On Sunday country music lost one of its original trailblazers, Jean Shepard. She ranks among country royalty, right along with the likes of Patsy Cline, Tammy Wynette, and Kitty Wells.
I always liked Shepard, although I never listened to a lot of her music. I had dreamed of meeting her or at least getting her autograph. She was originally from Oklahoma and she would have fit perfectly into my signed album collection. I was proud to call the longest living member of The Grand Ole Opry an Okie.
Shepard is one of the first female country singers to hold her ground in a male dominated world. She was also a fierce advocate for true country music. She refused to change her style due to the changing times. Real country music was her passion and she was going to sing just that.
Tonight I decided to put Shepard’s album, Got You On My Mind, on my turntable. I was quick to realize, after hearing just the beginning notes, why she was such a legend. As I have read articles over her, many often cite her brass attitude and wit to be something of a treasure. That is personified in her voice.
This album, released in 1961, is full of memorable songs, although none of them were ever released as singles. I think the executives were a little nervous of having such a brass female being a chief hit maker. Some of my favorites are “Midnight Special,” “One White Rose,” “Got You On My Mind,” and “If You Haven’t, You Can’t Feel The Way That I Do.”
Although, one song really stuck out to me on this album: “Waltz of The Angels.” This song was originally sung by George Jones. As cliché as this may sound, I figure she is doing just that. She is joining the likes of true countries biggest legends. I’m sure heaven is a honky-tonk right now.
Shepard described her staying power perfectly.
I want to talk a little bit about the early years as far as a female in country music. As you know, there wasn’t none of us. But I was happy to do my part. I hung in there like a hair on a grilled cheese.
And since nobody is going to eat a grilled cheese with a hair in it, I reckon her legacy is going to live on for an awful long time.