Brenda Lee was born Brenda Mae Tarpley on Dec. 11, 1944, in Atlanta. She was the second daughter of Rubin and Grace Tarpley. The youngster showed distinctive vocal talent at age 3, won her first singing contest when she was 5 and was performing regularly on an Atlanta radio station when she was 7. It was at about that time that a TV producer in Augusta, Ga., changed her name to Brenda Lee. In 1953, when she was 9, her father died in a construction accident.
Country singer Red Foley heard Lee when she was around 10 years old and subsequently invited her to appear with him on the popular TV show, Ozark Jubilee. Her popularity and high visibility soon won her guest shots on such popular network programs as The Ed Sullivan Show and The Perry Como Show.
In 1956, Lee signed with Decca Records, where she later united with the legendary producer Owen Bradley, who would oversee most of her hits. She charted her first pop single, "One Step at a Time," in 1957, but it made it only to No. 43. (The song did, however, go to No. 15 on the country rankings.) Though it would take a few years to break in the U.S., her early records sold well in Europe. She toured France in 1959 and has since established herself internationally as one of the most visible and beloved ambassadors of country music.
It wasn't until 1960 when Lee took "Sweet Nothin's" to No. 4 on the pop charts that she made a major impact as a recording artist. Over the next 13 years, she scored two No. 1's ("I'm Sorry" and "I Want to Be Wanted"), four Top 5s and five Top 10s. While its short seasonal nature kept it from ever topping the charts, her "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree," recorded in 1958, has become a holiday classic. A spellbinding stage performer, the diminutive (4 feet 11 inches) vocalist was dubbed "Little Miss Dynamite" following the release of her second charted single, "Dynamite," in 1957.
In 1962, during a Jackie Wilson concert at the fairgrounds in Nashville, Lee met her future husband, Charles (Ronnie) Shacklett. They were married on April 24, 1963, while Lee, still in her teens, was at the height of her record chart popularity. In spite of the pressures of show business, her marriage has endured. She and her husband have two daughters, Julie LeAnn (born in 1964) and Jolie Lenee (born in 1969).
Just as her pop presence was waning, Lee struck it big on the country charts. Between 1973 and 1975, she had six consecutive Top 10 hits on Decca's successor label, MCA. She continued to inhabit the country charts through the '80s and '90s with "Tell Me What It's Like," "The Cowgirl and the Dandy" and "Broken Trust" (with the Oak Ridge Boys) all going Top 10.
Apart from performing, Lee is a tireless supporter of the Nashville music community at large and of numerous charitable organizations. She has served on the boards of the Country Music Association and the Recording Academy (the Grammy organization) and has been active with the Kidney Foundation, the American Cancer Society, the Multiple Sclerosis and Cerebral Palsy organizations and the March of Dimes.
Lee was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1997 and to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002. Her autobiography, Little Miss Dynamite: The Life and Times of Brenda Lee, was published in 2003. ~SOURCE: http://www.cmt.com/artists/az/lee_brenda/bio.jhtml
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