Little Miss Dynamite Brenda Lee was born on Dec. 11, 1944 in Atlanta, to Rubin and Grace Tarpley. The couple's second daughter, Brenda won her first vocal competition at the age of five. By age 7, she was a regular performer on an Atlanta radio station. Around the same time, an Augusta, Ga., television producer was responsible for young Brenda Grace Tarpley being forever known as Brenda Lee.
After hearing her perform, Red Foley invited Lee to appear with him on the Ozark Jubilee television show; she was 10 years old. Lee followed the appearance with subsequent appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show and The Perry Como Show.
It was Lee's record contract with Decca Records, which she signed in 1956, that paired her with legendary producer Owen Bradley, who also produced Patsy Cline. Lee's first pop single, "One Step at a Time," hit the charts in 1957, rising to No. 43 on the pop charts while marking a respectable No. 15 on the country charts. Lee found early success in Europe, touring France in 1959.
In 1960, Lee took what would become one of her most enduring hits, "Sweet Nothin's," to No. 4 on the pop charts. She followed with two No. 1 songs-"I'm Sorry" and "I Want To Be Wanted." In 1958, Lee recorded her Christmas classic "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree." In 1957, she recorded her second charted single, "Dynamite," which resulted in Lee, who stands just four feet eleven inches tall, being dubbed "Little Miss Dynamite."
Lee married Charles "Ronnie" Shacklet on April 24, 1963. The couple met in 1962 during a Jackie Wilson concert at the Nashville fairgrounds. Lee and her husband have two daughters, Julie LeAnn (born in 1964) and Jolie Lenee (born in 1969).
In the 1970s, Lee accumulated six consecutive Top 10 country hits. The next two decades brought the hit singles "Tell Me What It's Like," "The Cowgirl and the Dandy" and "Broken Trust," the latter recorded with the Oak Ridge Boys.
Lee has used her success to bring public awareness to several causes, including the Kidney Foundation, the American Cancer Society, the Multiple Sclerosis and Cerebral Palsy organizations and the March of Dimes.
Lee's contributions to the country music industry were recognized in 1997 when she was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. In 2002, she became a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2003, Lee shared her life's story with her fans in her autobiography entitled Little Miss Dynamite: The Life and Times of Brenda Lee.
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