What can you say about Nashville’s own country music icon, Brenda Lee? Well factually, the better question might be what can’t you say about her? Brenda Lee has been singing since she was 5 years old and performed on a radio show at the age of seven. And she began singing for money by the time she was the ripe old age of nine.
From early on she was able to sing nearly any style. Country music, rockabilly or pop and despite her very petite size – standing only four feet nine inches tall – she sang with a powerful voice full of conviction no matter what she was singing. And her powerful deliveries have been one of the keys to her long career.
And if you’ve never heard any other Brenda Lee songs, most everyone on the planet, no matter their age or their music genre preference, has heard and developed a fondness for her 1958 hit of “Rockin Around the Christmas Tree.” It is listed as #4 on the all-time list of popular seasonal records. And this year, “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” is at No.1 on Billboard’s Country streaming songs.
Brenda Lee was signed to Decca Records in 1956 and she one of the first artists to record for Owen Bradley on Music Row in the famous Quonset Hut. Though she had no hits in 1956, the following year made up for that. In 1957 she released a song titled “One Step at a Time that became a hit in both the pop and country arenas. But it was the song titled “Dynamite,” that led to the nickname, “Little Miss Dynamite.” A nickname that has stayed with her since those earliest years.
Her #1 Billboard pop hit “I’m Sorry” – recorded in 1960 – was one of the first pieces of recorded music to use the “Nashville Sound.” A sound that was created by Nashville’s then-A-Team, that included Owen Bradley’s brother, Harold Bradley, a great piano player named Hargus “Pig” Robbins and the great Charlie McCoy.
And as a piece of very cool trivia for you: What distinctive group once opened for Brenda Lee on a UK Tour back in the early 1960’s? Well at that time, it was a little known group called The Beatles.
Brenda Lee was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1997 and in September of 2006, was the second recipient of the Jo Walker-Meador Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2009, Lee also received a “Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award.” Pretty big doin’s for a little gal. But Brenda Lee has never let her small build be of any negative significance. If anything, no one would likely ever think of Brenda Lee as small. She is too great a character, too big of a person, and a kind and true friend to those around her.
From the early 50’s through the mid 1980’s Brenda Lee continued to create hits. And as her nickname “Little Miss Dynamite” might suggest, she has never stopped recording and singing. She is most definitely still rockin’. But these days she also enjoys spending a little of her “rockin'” time with her family and friends – and at this time of the year, celebrating the holidays.
The Tennessean is honoring Brenda Lee this year with a “12 Days of Brenda Lee” and she talks about her favorite holiday traditions. There are even some videos you can take in.
And speaking of videos, we thought you might enjoy this flashback. You might even recognize another music idol of days gone by.