Anita Bryant Biography

25 March 1940, Barnsdale, Oklahoma, USA. Bryant has had a unique series of career changes: a beauty queen turned hitmaker, turned religious singer and spokesperson against gay liberation. Her first stage appearance was at the age of six and at nine she won her first talent show. She became known as ‘Oklahoma’s Red Feather Girl’, and local television and radio appearances brought her to the attention of Arthur Godfrey, who put her on his television talent show where she won first prize. Her first record was ‘Sinful To Flirt’ in early 1956. In 1958 she became ‘Miss Oklahoma’ and at that year’s ‘Miss America Pageant’, where she also sang, she came third. Her first chart entry was her second single on Carlton, a version of ‘Till There Was You’ (from the musical The Music Man), in 1959. She had three US Top 20 singles in 1960-61 with ‘Paper Roses’, ‘In My Little Corner Of The World’ (both minor UK hits and both revived later by Marie Osmond) and the vocal version of Bert Kaempfert’s number 1 hit, ‘Wonderland By Night’. She joined Columbia Records in 1962 and later recorded religious material for Myrrh and Word.

Bryant’s profile was raised outside of music following several outspoken anti-gay comments. In the mid-80s she appeared on Pat Robertson’s television show, where she adopted the line of ‘hate the sin, love the sinner’ and attempted to step back from her earlier extremes of criticism. For a while, running through the 90s, she continued to perform regularly, most often at the Anita Bryant Theater in Branson, Missouri. When the theatre was sold, she moved on to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, and another period of performing at the theatre there. This endeavour was afflicted with financial problems and was terminated.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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