“A lot of people sing words…Dottie West sang emotions.”
The Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum will unveil a special spotlight exhibit dedicated to beloved singer Dottie West on November 9. Dottie West: Country Sunshine, which will be located within the museum’s permanent exhibit on the second floor, will incorporate costumes and relics spanning West’s four-decade career. The exhibition will run through May 2, 2013.
Dottie West: Country Sunshine traces the 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. West 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.
Dorothy Marie Marsh was born October 11, 1932, in Frog Pond—near McMinnville, Tennessee. The oldest of 10 children, she grew up playing guitar and even fronted a band with her fellow high school students.
Dottie married steel guitarist Bill West in 1952. The couple, with their children, moved to Nashville in 1961. 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. Though it was a jingle for Coca-Cola, the tune became her signature song. West is also known for her hit duets—primarily with Kenny Rogers. The pair met in 1977 and recorded “Every Time Two Fools Collide.” The song went to #1 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.
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, and, the following year, while en route to an Opry performance, West sustained serious injuries in an automobile accident. She died a few days later, on September 4, 1991. She was 58.
Among the artifacts on display in Dottie West: Country Sunshine are:
- 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, c. 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, c. 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 Wild West.
- A number of career and personal photos, album covers and industry awards.
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.
Other current spotlight exhibits focus on Garth Brooks, Jack Greene, Minnie Pearl, Hargus “Pig” Robbins and Connie Smith.
Accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum is operated by the Country Music Foundation, a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) educational organization chartered by the state of Tennessee in 1964. The museum’s mission is the preservation of the history of country and related vernacular music rooted in southern culture. With the same educational mission, the foundation also operates CMF Records, the museum’s Frist Library and Archive, CMF Press, Historic RCA Studio B and Hatch Show Print®.
NASHVILLE, Tenn., November 6, 2012
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