Today is Thursday, August 17, 2017

MJ native Johnnie Wright passes

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The country music community is mourning the passing of Mt. Juliet native Johnnie Robert Wright, 97. Born May 13, 1914, Mr. Wright died Tuesday morning, Sept. 27 at his Davidson County home in Madison following an extended illness. Mr. Wright was known as a solo artist, husband of the "Queen of Country Music" Kitty Wells, and as part of the duo Johnnie & Jack.

Funeral services were held 2 p.m. Friday, Sept. 30 at the Madison Church of Christ, 106 Gallatin Rd. North, Madison, with Bro. Steve North officiating.
Burial followed in Spring Hill Cemetery, with his nephews serving as pallbearers.

Serving as honorary pallbearers were his former band members, The Tennessee Mountain Boys.

Wells and Wright married in 1937 when she was 18, and formed a trio with her sister Louise, known as Johnnie Wright and the Harmony Girls. Louise later married Johnnies duo partner Jack Anglin. Also, Wells sang with Johnnie & Jack in the early 40s. By 1947 Johnnie & Jack secured a regular spot on the Grand Ole Opry and went on to join the Louisiana Hayride.

Signing with RCA brought the duo its biggest hits in the 1950s including Poison Love, Cryin Heart Blues, Oh, Baby Mine (I Get So Lonely), and Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight.They were known for intertwining latin and calypso influences with their country sound. At one point Wright even hired a young Chet Atkins as a fiddler, prior to his rise to fame as a guitar player.

Switching to Decca Records in the 1960s resulted in changing the spelling of Johnnie to Johnny. Anglin passed in 1963, and by 1965 Wright was working as a solo artist and scored the No. 1 hit Hello Vietnam. He was a lifelong booster of his wifes career, encouraging her to go by the stage name Kitty Wells, and guiding her business endeavors. He also steered her toward her career-making hit It Wasnt God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels.

Later they toured with their children the late Ruby, Carol Sue, and Bobby as The Kitty Wells-Johnnie Wright Family Show.

Austin & Bell Funeral Home of Springfield was in charge of arrangements.

photo provided by PATRICIA PRESLEY, Spring Hill

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