Grand Ole Opry legend Jean Shepard passed away in Nashville on September 25 at the age of 82.
Shepard was born Ollie Imogene Shepard on Nov. 21, 1933 in Oklahoma. Shepard began her career performing in the female group, “The Melody Ranch Girls.” Hank Thompson help Shepard begin her solo career at the age of 14. Shepard recorded “A Dear John Letter” with Ferlin Husky in 1953. “A Dear John Letter” became Shepard’s first No. 1. In 1963 Shepard’s husband was killed in the same plane crash that killed Patsy Cline. In 2005 Shepard became the first female artist to reach 50 years as a Grand Ole Opry member. In 2011 Shepard was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Opry vice president and general manager Pete Fisher said in the statement: “Although we will miss Jean’s presence on the Opry stage, she has left us the wonderful gift of her music which will be remembered for generations to come.”
Shepard is survived by her husband, Benny Birchfield, and sons Don Robin Hawkins, Harold Franklin Hawkins II and Corey Birchfield.