The Grand Ladies of Country Music-Jean Shepard, Jan Howard and Pretty Miss Norma Jean-will headline the Llano Country Opry on Saturday, April 9, at the Lantex Theater in Llano. The show will begin at 7:30 PM and admission is $15.00 per person. Tickets are on sale at the Llano and Kingsland Chamber of Commerce, Llano National National Bank, Lively Computers or by calling (325) 247-5354.
Jean Shepard accomplished many "firsts" in the business including: the first female in country music to sell a million records, first vocalist to overdub her voice on records, first female to make a color TV commercial and the first female country singer to be a member of the GRAND OLE OPRY for over 48 years.
Shepard was born in Pauls Valley, Oklahoma, and spent most of her formative years in Visalia, California. She was one of 10 children all musically inclined. She helped form and become the lead singer in an all girl band called "THE MELODY RANCH GIRLS".
In one of her early performances with the Melody Ranch Girls, Shepard appeared with the great Hank Thompson. He was impressed enough with the talented newcomer to arrange introductions which ultimately lead to Shepard’s recording contract with Capitol Records. For over twenty-one years Jean Shepard remained under contract to Capitol, selling countless millions of records including the NUMBER 1 HITS: "The Dear John Letter", "Beautiful Lies", "Many Happy Hangovers", "Seven Lonely Days", "Then He Touched Me", "Satisfied Mind" and "Second Fiddle To An Old Guitar".
Shepard joined the prestigious Grand Ole Opry in 1955. In the early 1970’s Jean moved to United Artists Records where she continued to have hits with "Slippin Away", "Poor Sweet Baby", "At The Time" and "Tips of My Fingers" while recording over 35 albums. She will be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame later this year.
The late Gentlemen Jim Reeves was often quoted when he said, "all the girl singers should sound like Jean Shepard. She always hits her notes, holds them and wraps them around an audience like nobody else can".
Jan Howard was born in West Plains, Missouri. She started her career in Country Music while living in Los Angeles. Howard married Country Music Hall of Fame Songwriter Harlan Howard. Harland used his wife to record several demo records that he would take and pitch to other entertainers.
She recorded a demo record of a song written by Buck Owens that was intended for Kitty Wells. Joe Johnson, a record producer on the West Coast, heard the demo and decided that Jan needed to become a recording artist.
Howard’s first solo single "The One You Slip Around With" was a Top 10 hit and she was named the "Most Promising Country and Western Vocalist" by Jukebox Operators, Billboard and Cashbox Magazines.
In 1964, she signed a recording contract with Decca Records. Howard also joined Bill Anderson’s syndicated television show and road show and joined the Grand Ole Opry on March 27, 1971. Howard recorded some very successful duets with Bill Anderson during the next seven years including "For Loving You" "If It’s All The Same To You" "We’ll Be Together" and "Dis-Satisfied."
Her biggest hit "Evil On Your Mind" was released and immediately hit the top of the charts and remains her signature song today. Howard published her autobiography "Sunshine and Shadow" giving readers a very close look at not only her legendary career, but her personal life.
Pretty Miss Norma Jean was born in Oklahoma. When she was fourteen she heard Kitty Wells sing "It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels." "I decided then," Norma said "that was the greatest voice that I ever heard.
Norma got an early start in Country Music performing over local radio stations in and around Oklahoma City. At the age of eighteen, Norma joined the famous ABC-TV show, "Ozark Jubilee" with Red Foley. In 1960, Norma moved to Nashville and joined the Porter Wagoner television show. The exposure that she received on television across the country and through personal appearances with Wagoner allowed her career to soar. She signed with RCA Records in 1963 and joined Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry the same year.
Wagoner would bring Norma one of her biggest hits in 1963 with "Let’s Go All The Way," a song about setting a wedding date. She followed that with twenty seven albums for RCA including hit singles like ""I Wouldn’t Buy A Used Car From Him" "Go Cat Go" "Don’t Let The Doorknob Hit You" "I Cried All The Way To The Bank" "I’m A Walking Advertisement For The Blues" and her highest charting song "A Game Of Triangles" with Bobby Bare and Liz Anderson in 1966.
Norma left the Porter Wagoner show in 1967, returning to her native Oklahoma. Wagoner replaced Norma with a relatively unknown singer named Dolly Parton. Norma remained on RCA records for several more years, but relinquished her membership in the Grand Ole Opry and going into semi-retirement.
Norma joined the cast of "Grand Ladies" show in Branson, Missouri in the late 1990’s and makes Branson her home now. She hosts Norma Jean’s Cowboy Church each Sunday at the God and Country Theater.
"We are so excited to have the Grand Ladies of Country Music join us at the Llano Country Opry," MC Tracy Pitcox said. "It is going to be an incredible show with three incredible legends of Country Music."
The Llano Country Opry Band will include Justin Trevino, Bode Barker, Sammy Geistweidt, Don Ricketson, Charley Walton and Shane Lively. Tracy Pitcox will MC the show.