8 Facts About Dottie West, A Trailblazing Pioneer For Female Country Artists

1. She’s a native of McMinnville, Tennessee.

Born Dorothy Marie Marsh on October 11, 1932, the country icon grew up on a tiny farm outside of Music City in a large, impoverished family. To make ends meet, her mother opened a small cafe. Being the eldest of ten children, West helped her mother run the establishment at a young age.

2. She suffered abuse from her father.

Sadly, West’s father was an alcoholic who beat and sexually abused her. It only ended when she reported him to the local sheriff and testified in court against him. Justice was served with her father being placed behind bars and was sentenced to forty years imprisonment. West was 17 then.

3. She refused to duet on Kris Kristofferson’s “Help Me Make It Through the Night” as it was “too sexy.” 

Before West donned glorious red hair and the provocative outfits most country fans remembered, she performed dressed in a conservative gingham dress and refused to record provocative songs.

4. She was the first female country artist to win a Grammy. 

In 1965, West’s hit song “Here Comes My Baby” helped her take home a Grammy Award in the category of Best Female Country Vocal Performance – making her the first woman in the genre to receive such an award. The same year West was also invited to become a member of the Grand Ole Opry.

5. She composed twelve Coca-Cola jingles. 

This includes “Country Sunshine,” which she’s best known for.

6. She was divorced three times.

At 21 years old, West married a steel guitarist named Bill West, whom she met when she studied music at Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville, Tennessee. The couple was blessed with four children, including country music star Shelly West.

However, West and Bill called it quits shortly after she achieved success in country music. In 1972, she married drummer Bryan Metcalf, who was a dozen years younger than her. In 1983, she married sound engineer Al Winters, who was also twenty-three years her junior.

7. She filed for bankruptcy. 

While Dottie West songs were some of the biggest hits in the 1960s and a1970s, especially her duets with Kenny Rogers, the country star was caught up in a disastrous spiral of misfortunes. She suffered from drug and alcohol abuse. She experienced financial challenges and had no choice but to file for bankruptcy in 1990. In 1991, The Internal Revenue Service held an auction of her properties during the yearly Country Music Fan Fair so they could recover West’s debt of $1 million.

At some point, West made a home out of her tour bus, which was also later sold.

8. She died in a car crash.

West was headed to the Grand Ole Opry for a scheduled performance when her car – a Chrysler New Yorker that Kenny Rogers had given to her after losing her possessions – broke down. A neighbor spotted her on the roadside and offered to drive her to the Opry. After speeding up at a freeway exit ramp to get to the Opry on time, he lost control of the car, and they crashed. West suffered injuries and died four days later following a series of surgeries.

While Dottie West’s had a roller-coaster ride, she surely had made a colorful and unforgettable career. 

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