Johnnie Wright, Country Star & Kitty Wells' Husband, Dies at 97
Nashville lost one of its oldest links to Country Music's past with the passing of Johnnie Wright Tuesday morning (Sept. 27) at the age of 97.
Wright, along with Jack Anglin, formed the duo Johnnie & Jack in 1939. The two created a unique sound that influenced many of Country Music's top harmony-laden acts of all time.
Recording with RCA Victor beginning in the late 1940s, the pair placed 15 records on the Billboard chart between 1951 and 1962. Their biggest hit was 1954's "(Oh Baby Mine) I Get So Lonely," which spent two weeks at the summit of the chart. Other hits included "Poison Love" and "Stop The World (And Let Me Off)." Critics fondly point to their recorded output for the tight harmony, and Latin-influenced beat.
The partnership between the two (who were also brothers-in-law) came to a tragic end in March of 1963 when Anglin was killed in an automobile accident en route to Patsy Cline's memorial service.
Wright would chart 12 times as a solo artist for Decca Records from 1964-1968, earning a No. 1 hit in the fall of 1965 with "Hello Vietnam," a song that was one of the earliest hits for Tom T. Hall as a writer. It was also one of the first war songs in the genre during the Vietnam War and later was used in the striking opening credits of the Stanley Kubrick film, "Full Metal Jacket" ( Watch Video). His last charted record was 1968's "(They Always Come Out) Smellin' Like A Rose," which went to No. 66.
Just as much as Wright was known for Johnnie & Jack and his own music, he was also known for being the husband of "The Queen of Country Music," Kitty Wells. The two married in 1937, with Wright getting the credit for coming up with the stage name of "Kitty Wells," as her real name was Ellen Muriel Deason. They toured together for years, retiring with a performance at the Nashville Nightlife Theatre on New Years' Eve 2000. Though well known as one of Country Music's strongest couples, they only charted one record together, 1968's 'We'll Stick Together," which made it to No. 54.
Born Johnnie Robert Wright on May 13, 1914, in Mount Juliet, Tenn., the singer's name was accidentally changed to "Johnny" on one of Johnnie and Jack's albums in 1962. After that, he generally stuck with Johnny.
On his morning show on WSM-AM / Nashville today, Bill Cody remembered Wright for his longtime devotion to his wife and his unique sense of humor.
In addition to Wells, Wright is survived by a daughter, Carol Sue, and a son, Bobby. He was preceded in death by a daughter, Ruby. Funeral arrangements are pending.