14 January 1937, Beaumont, Texas, USA. Discovered by songwriter Jack Rhodes, Spears first record, as Billie Jo Moore, Too Old For Toys, Too Young For Boys, earned her $4, 200 at the age of 15. Despite appearances on The Louisiana Hayride, she did not record regularly until she signed with United Artists Records in 1964. Following her producer, Kelso Herston, to Capitol Records, she had country hits with Hes Got More Love In His Little Finger and Mr. Walker, Its All Over. After time off following the removal of a nodule on her vocal cords, she recorded briefly for Brite Star and Cutlass. In 1974, Spears returned to United Artists Records where producer Larry Butler was developing a successful country roster. Her transatlantic smash, Blanket On The Ground, was controversial in America. It sounded like a cheating song, says Spears, and the public dont think girls should sing cheating songs! In actuality, it was about adding romance to a marriage and its success prompted other records with a similar theme and tempo - What Ive Got In Mind (which had originally been a rhumba) and 57 Chevrolet. The traditional Sing Me An Old-Fashioned Song sold well in the UK, while her cover version of Dorothy Moores ballad Misty Blue was successful in the USA. She is also known for her cover version of Gloria Gaynors I Will Survive. She maintains, It is still a country record. I am country. I could never go pop with my mouthful of firecrackers.
A duet album with Del Reeves, By Request, and a tribute to her producer, Larry Butler And Friends with Crystal Gayle and Dottie West, were not released in the UK. A single of her blues-soaked cover version of Heartbreak Hotel was cancelled in 1977 because she did not want to exploit Elvis Presleys death. Spears is a highly popular live performer, signing autographs and talking to fans after every appearance. She buys all her stage clothes in the UK and refuses to wear anything casual; If I didnt wear gowns, she says, theyd throw rotten tomatoes. Among her UK recordings are a duet with Carey Duncan of I Can Hear Kentucky Calling Me and an album B.J. - Billie Jo Spears Today with her stage band, Owlkatraz. More recently, she recorded husky-voiced versions of familiar songs for mass-marketed albums. Despite undergoing triple bypass surgery, Spears made a welcome return to recording original material in 1996 with the co-produced Outlaw Woman. She remains a true ambassador of country music.
Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.