Rocking50s Classic Oldies



Brenda Lee
Brenda Mae Tarpley (born December 11, 1944 in Atlanta, Georgia), is an American country-pop singer, who was popular during the 1950s and 1960s. In the 1960s she had more charted hits than any other woman, and only three male singers/groups (Elvis Presley, Ray Charles and The Beatles) outpaced her. She was one of the earliest pop stars to have a major contemporary international following.

She was given the nickname Little Miss Dynamite after recording Dynamite in 1957; the explosive strength of the sound pouring out of her small frame amazed audiences and promoters. Her general popularity faded as her voice suffered damage and matured in the late 1960s, but she successfully continued her recording career by returning to her roots as a country singer. She was able to chart in Billboard’s country-western top-ten twice in 1980.

She enjoys one distinction unique among successful American singers; her opening act on a UK tour in the early 1960s was a little-known beat group from Liverpool, England: The Beatles.[1][2]
Early Years
Lee’s father, Ruben Tarpley, was born roughly halfway between Atlanta and Augusta, Georgia. He was the son of a hardscrabble farmer in Georgia’s red-clay belt, which was devastated by soil depletion and the boll weevil. Although he stood only 170 cm (5 feet 7 inches), he was an excellent left-handed pitcher, and spent 11 years in the Army playing baseball. Her mother, Annie Grayce Yarbrough, had a similar background of an honest, uneducated working class family in Greene County, Georgia, although she had the distinction of a Cherokee great-grandparent.

Brenda was born Brenda Mae Tarpley in the charity ward of Grady Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, on December 11, 1944. She weighed 2126 g (4 pounds 11 ounces) at birth. She attended grade schools wherever her father found work, primarily in the corridor between Atlanta and Augusta. Her family was poor, living hand-to-mouth; she shared a bed with her two siblings in a series of three-room houses without running water. Life centered around her parents’ finding work, their extended family, and the Baptist Church (where she sang solos every Sunday).[3]

She was a musical prodigy. Although her family did not have indoor plumbing until after her father’s death, they had a battery-powered table radio that fascinated Brenda as a baby. By the time she was two, she would hear songs on the radio once and be able to whistle the complete tune.[4] Both her mother and sister remember taking her repeatedly to a local candy store before she turned three; one of them would stand her on the counter and she would earn free candy or small coins for singing.

Her voice, pretty face, and complete absence of stage fright won her wider attention from the time she was five years old. At age 6, she won a local singing contest sponsored by the elementary schools. The reward was a live appearance on an Atlanta radio show, “Starmakers Revue”.

Her father died in 1953. By the time she turned ten, she had become the primary breadwinner of her family by singing at events and on local radio and television shows.