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A ray of country sunshine
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A 400-page hardback book chronicling the life of Dottie West has been written by Monty Wanamaker, a local artist and author.
“Born A Country Girl: The Life & Legacy of Dottie West” features rarely seen pictures and hundreds of interviews with those closest to the singer.
“She is such a fascinating person,” said Wanamaker. “From what she came from to what she accomplished, she achieved super stardom. I wanted to tell the whole story, because she was a remarkable woman.”
His book took almost five years to write, as it details information gathered by Wanamaker in West’s divorce records and the hundreds of interviews she gave during her life, as well as approximately 150 interviews Wanamaker had with business associates and personal acquaintances of West such as Dolly Parton, Larry Gatlin, Kenny Rogers and Charlie Dick, the husband of Patsy Cline.
“I let her tell her own story as much as possible,” said Wanamaker. “The book takes you from her birth in 1932 to her death in 1991. I went to DeKalb County and researched the place where she was born. The book would have been out much sooner but I wanted to include physical and historical research.”
Dottie was well photographed throughout her life. Wanamaker says there is one photograph fans have not seen that’s included in the book.
“Patsy’s biographer has been begging Charlie to let them publish the picture of Patsy and Dottie, but he won’t do it,” Wanamaker said. “He wouldn’t give it to anyone. He gave it to me for this book. I have a lot of rare photographs in this book. There are more than 225 pictures included in the book.”
The only source not utilized for the book was West’s family members.
“Her family would not cooperate with me at all,” said Wanamaker. “They don’t want anyone making a dime on Dottie’s story, but they aren’t doing anything to tell her story. This is the first thorough telling of the story of this remarkable music legend.”
Dorothy Marie Marsh was born Oct. 11, 1932, in Frog Pond near McMinnville. The oldest of 10 children, she grew up playing guitar and fronted a band with her fellow high school students. She married 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 she 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 No. 1 and sparked a string of hits for the duo.
After a few years off the record charts and some bad investments, West went bankrupt in 1990. She continued to perform at the Grand Ole Opry. In 1991, while en route to an Opry performance, West sustained serious injuries in an automobile accident. She died a few days later on Sept. 4, 1991. She was 58.
West’s chartered 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.
Copies of Wanamaker’s book will soon be available at Southern Museum & Galleries, located at 210 E. Main Street. For more information, call 507-8102 or email