The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum unveiled a special spotlight exhibit today, Nov. 9, that is dedicated to much-adored country singer Dottie West.
Titled “Dottie West: Country Sunshine” and on display through May 2, 2013, the exhibit is located within the museum’s permanent exhibit on the second floor, according to reports from museum reps, and it incorporates costumes and relics spanning West’s 40-year music career..
A hit-maker on her own and as a duet partner for Kenny Rogers, West’s new exhibit follows the sexy red-headed singer’s journey from humble beginnings and an abusive father to her zenith as an award-winning member of the Grand Ole Opry, to her untimely death in 1991. During her career, she charted dozens of singles, was the first female country artist to win a Grammy, and helped artists such as Larry Gatlin, Jeannie Seely and Steve Wariner begin or boost their careers.
According to Marty Martel, president of Nashville-based ROPE International, “Today, there is a strong push for Dottie’s induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame. That campaign includes a new Facebook page titled ‘Dottie West Needs Inducted Into the Country Music Hall of Fame,’ which is dedicated to preserving Dottie’s legacy, with special emphasis on encouraging the CMA to induct Dottie next year.”
Among the many who turned out to welcome the exhibit’s grand opening were two of Dottie’s sons, Kerry and Dale West, and two of her music-making friends, Grand Ole Opry member Jan Howard and Hall of Fame member Brenda Lee.
About Dottie West
Born October 11, 1932, in Frog Pond, which is near McMinnville, Tenn., Dorothy Marie Marsh was the eldest of 10 children. She grew up playing guitar and even fronted a band with her fellow high-school students.
In 1952, she married steel-guitarist Bill West. The couple, with their children, moved to Nashville in 1961. And not long thereafter, in the mid-1960s, RCA’s Chet Atkins signed her to a record deal and produced her self-penned “Here Comes My Baby.” The song launched her career and earned her a Grammy for “Best Country & Western Performance, Female.”
West co-wrote “Country Sunshine” in 1973. And alhough it was a jingle for Coca-Cola, the tune became her signature song. West ultimately became well known for her hit duets with the aforementioned Rogers, whom she met in 1977. Together, they cut “Every Time Two Fools Collide,” a song that went to No. 1 on the charts and sparked a string of hits for the duo.
By the late 1970s, West had become known for a signature style of glamorous, custom-designed ensembles. Most notable were her stage costumes created by Bob Mackie—the Hollywood–based designer with clients that included Cher, Diana Ross and “The Carol Burnett Show.”
Regarding West, country star Rogers once said, “A lot of people sing words… (but) Dottie West sang emotions.”
In spite of her solid success, after a few years off the record charts and some bad investments, West went bankrupt in 1990. She continued to perform on the Grand Ole Opry, however, and, the following year, while en route to an Opry performance, she sustained serious injuries in an automobile accident. West died a few days later, on Sept. 4, 1991. She was 58.
About the Dottie West exhibit
Among the artifacts on display in “Dottie West: Country Sunshine” are the following:
- West’s handwritten manuscript for “Frogpond Boogie,” a song she wrote in seventh grade.
- West’s red-and-white gingham dress, sewn by her mother, circa 1950.
- King James Bible, given by the singer to her father-in-law on Father’s Day 1959, inscribed with a personal message from West.
- Dottie West Fan Club card, circa 1961.
- Yellow Bob Mackie costume featuring a silk top with bugle beading, rhinestones, sequins and beaded daisy motifs; matching belt; satin pants; and embellished Pasquale Di Fabrizio boots.West notably wore the ensemble when she performed for President Jimmy Carter and First Lady Rosalynn Carter at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C., in 1977.
- Purple Bob Mackie ensemble, including a silk cocoon jacket and halter top adorned with red, blue and silver rhinestones; satin pants; and Di Fabrizio boots.
- Turquoise Mackie creation featuring a sequin-covered “Country Sunshine”-themed cape; blouse; belt; spandex pants; and Di Fabrizio boots. Actress Michele Lee also wore the outfit when she portrayed the singer in the 1995 CBS-TV movie, “Big Dreams and Broken Hearts: The Dottie West Story.”
- Copper-colored jacket and pants; digital fashion watch encrusted with aurora borealis rhinestones; and black satin shoes with rhinestone heel accents, worn often by West in the late 1980s.
- Patchwork denim jacket; halter top; full-length skirt, embellished with rhinestones, sequins, studs, bugle beading and floral embroidery, worn by West in the mid-1970s, when denim was her signature look.
- Purple mermaid-style gown, worn by West on her 1982 Showtime cable TV special, Full Circle, and at one of her final televised Opry appearances, in 1990.
- A selection of West’s rhinestone accessories, including earrings, belt and shoes.
- Hand-painted canvas trench coat with rhinestone-accented portraits of Judy Garland on the front and back, created by pop artist Robert Fischer.
- Homemade jelly, with “From Dottie West’s Kitchen” embroidered on the lid—Christmas gift from West in 1989.
- Life-size cardboard cut-out of West made to promote her 1981 album titled “Wild West.”
- A number of career and personal photos, album covers and industry awards.
Per the museum’s officials, spotlight exhibits are narratives that supplement themes or aspects of the museum’s core exhibition, “Sing Me Back Home: A Journey Through Country Music.” These short-term, informal displays either provide a closer look at a particular person, group or aspect of country music, or spotlight recently donated items or special anniversaries.
Rotated often, spotlight exhibits also offer a glimpse into the museum’s unique collection, which includes recorded discs, historical photographs, films and videotapes; thousands of posters, books, songbooks, periodicals and sheet music; personal artifacts such as performers’ instruments, costumes and accessories; and more.
Currently, other spotlight exhibits at the museum focus on Garth Brooks, Jack Greene, Minnie Pearl, Hargus “Pig” Robbins and Connie Smith.
Museum info: More information about the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum or its exhibits, please visit www.countrymusichalloffame.org or call 615-416-2001.
- Video view: To see Dottie West perform one of her classics, “Lesson In Leavin’,” please access the video embedded on the left side of this post.