Dorothy Marie Marsh, 11 October 1932, McMinnville, Tennessee, USA, d. 4 September 1991, Nashville, Tennessee, USA. The eldest of 10 children, West worked the cotton and sugar cane crops on the family farm as well as looking after her younger siblings. Country music was popular with her parents and she first learned to play guitar from her father. She completed a college education and graduated with a music degree. During her college days she sang at various events and met and married Bill West, an electronics engineering student, who later became a noted country steel guitarist and her manager (the marriage produced four children, including country singer Shelly West, and lasted until 1969). They moved to Cleveland in the mid-50s, where they both appeared regularly on theLandmark Jubilee television show. They moved to Nashville in 1959, where Dottie was befriended by Patsy Cline and briefly joined Starday and Atlantic Records. In 1962, at the recommendation of Jim Reeves, Chet Atkins signed her to RCA Records. Her first US country chart hit, Let Me Off At The Corner, was in 1963, the same year that the first song she wrote, Is This Me, became a number 3 country hit for Jim Reeves.
The following year a duet with Reeves, Love Is No Excuse, was a country Top 10 hit as well as a minor pop chart entry. A country Top 10 solo hit of her own song, Here Comes My Baby, followed, which so successfully launched her career that between 1964 and 1984, she charted a further 60 US country hits. The following year, she was the first female country singer to win a Grammy. In the mid-to-late 60s, she had country hits with Would You Hold It Against Me, Paper Mansions, Country Girl (which became a successful Coca-Cola advert), Reno and duet recordings with Don Gibson, including a number 2 country hit with Rings Of Gold. Her ability to sing country tear-jerkers was adequately shown with such numbers as Mommy, Can I Still Call Him Daddy (which even featured her four-year-old son Dale). West also appeared in several movies includingSecond Fiddle To A Steel Guitar andThe Aurora Encounter, and played the Grand Ole Opry regularly (she became a member in 1964). She recorded with Jimmy Dean in the early 70s, and in 1973 she had further major success with commercials for Coca-Cola, which featured her own award-winning song Country Sunshine and led to her nickname of the Country Sunshine Girl. In the early 70s, she married her bands drummer Byron Metcalf, but they later divorced in 1980. She left RCA in 1976 and in 1980 had number 1 country hits with A Lesson In Leavin and Are You Happy Baby? on United Artists Records.
Between 1979 and 1981 she registered three country number 1 duet recordings alongside Kenny Rogers with Every Time Two Fools Collide, All I Ever Need Is You and What Are We Doin In Love?. She won many solo awards and in 1978 and 1979 she and Rogers were voted the Country Music Association Vocal Duo Of The Year. Between 1981 and 1985, she registered some minor hits on Liberty Records and Permian, but only Its High Time and Together Again (another duet with Kenny Rogers) made the US country Top 20. She married soundman Al Winters in 1983, and began appearing in stage productions. In 1991, after divorcing Winters, she was declared bankrupt and many of her possessions were auctioned off to pay an Inland Revenue Service debt of almost $1 million. On Friday 30 August 1991, owing to problems with her own car, she asked an 81-year-old neighbour to drive her to the Grand Ole Opry for her scheduled appearance. His car crashed at speed when it left the ramp to the venues car park, vaulted in the air and hit the central division. Both occupants were rushed to the Vanderbilt Medical Centre in a critical condition. Dottie West suffered a severe rupture of the liver and, in spite of several operations, surgeons could not control the bleeding. Although fully aware of the extent of her injuries, she was unable to speak and sadly died a few days later on 4 September. During her career she toured extensively, played all the major network television shows and was popular in Europe where she appeared on several occasions.
Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.