Billie Jo Spears, the husky-voiced singer who became one of the most respected female artists of the 1960s and 1970s in country music, died of cancer Wednesday (Dec. 14) at her home in Texas. The age of the singer, who is best known for her 1975 hit "Blanket on the Ground," has been listed as either 73 or 74.
Born Billie Jean Spears, the singer was a native of Beaumont, TX. She made her first record, "Too Old For Toys, Too Young For Boys," for Abbott Records while still a child. By her teen-age years, she was performing on KWKH's "Louisiana Hayride."
Spears made the move to Nashville in 1964, and soon signed to United Artists Records. The hits didn't come immediately, and by the end of the decade, she had moved to the roster of Capitol Records. She hit there in 1969 with the top ten "Mr. Walker, It's All Over," which peaked at No. 4 on the charts. The song, one of the first about sexual discrimination, became a favorite of many.
However, the follow-up hits didn't take place on Capitol, so Spears returned to her first home -- United Artists, in 1975. This time, her career hit high gear.
"Blanket On The Ground" became a number-one record for the singer, and she also hit the upper echelon of the country charts with songs like "What I've Got In Mind" and a cover of Wilma Burgess's "Misty Blue." Her final top-40 on the chart was 1983's "Midnight Blue." She also gained a huge following overseas in the United Kingdom, as well. In the 1990s, British magazine Country Music People tabbed her as the "Queen Mother of Country Music."
Arrangements are being handled by R.S. Farmer Funeral Home in Silsbee, TX.