BRENDA LEE, December 11, 1944-

Known as "Little Miss Dynamite," Brenda Lee—along with the more middle-of-the-road oriented Connie Francis—was the dominant female star during the early rock ‘n’ roll era. Her powerful, worldly-wise voice, capable of negotiating rave-up rockers as well as tender voice, seemed incongruous with her youth.

Born Brenda Mae Tarpley in Atlanta, she began singing by age seven on local radio and television programs. When her father died a year later, her income helped support the family. Her big break came when she met Red Foley’s manager, Dub Albritten, in 1956. He booked her on Foley’s shows, which led to national TV appearances. On July 30 of that year she recorded "Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree" (Decca 30776) with producer Owen Bradley in Nashville; it became her first hit. Tours of both the U.S. and Europe followed; to satisfy French promoters, who’s thought she was an adult, Albritten started the rumor that she was a thirty-two-year-old midget.

With the release of "Sweet Nothin’s" (Decca 30967; 1959; #4), Lee enjoyed a string of hits that ran through the 1960s, including "I’m Sorry"/"That’s All You Gotta Do" (Decca 31093; 1960; #s 1/6), ""I Want To Be Wanted" (Decca 31149; 1960; #1), "Emotions" (Decca 31195; 1960-1961; #7), "You Can Depend On Me" (Decca 31195; 1961; #6), "Dum Dum" (Decca 31272; 1961; #4), "Fool #1" (Decca 31309; 1961; #3), "Break It To Me Gently" (Decca 31348; 1962; #4), ""Everybody Loves Me But You" (Decca 31379; 1962; #6), "All Alone Am I" (Decca 31424; 1962; #3), and "Losing You" (Decca 31478; 1963; #6). By the time she was twenty-one she had recorded 256 tracks for Decca. Recognizing that her style ran counter to pop tastes at the time, she shifted her emphasis to the country music business in the early 1970s. In addition to chart success—Top Ten recordings included "Nobody Wins" (MCA 40003; 1973), "Sunday Sunrise" (MCA 40107; 1973), "Wrong Ideas" (MCA 40171; 1974), "Big Four Poster Bed" (MCA 40262; 1974), "Rock On Baby" (MCA 40318; 1974), "He’s My Rock" (MCA 40385; 1975), "Tell Me What It’s Like" (MCA 41130; 1979), "The Cowgirl and the Dandy" (MCA 41187; 1980), and "Broken Trust" (MCA 41322; 1980)—she did a syndicated interview program based in Nashville and had occasional acting roles (e.g., Smokey and the Bandit 2).

With lifetime record sales estimated to have exceeded 100 million, Lee has won many honors including the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences Governors Award.

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