dottie west


She dared to dream… And then lived it.

Born Dorothy Marie Marsh in McMinnville, TN in 1932, country music legend Dottie West reached the heights of fame most singers only dream about.

From her humble childhood spent picking cotton, the oldest of 10 children, Dottie dreamed of being a singer as she would listen to the Grand Ole Opry by the family radio each Saturday night. Raised by her mother, Pelina, Dottie grew in strength, despite her abusive father, and aspired for a better life for herself. With her suitcase and her guitar in hand, she set off for college in search of her destiny. What she found there was Bill West, a fellow student and musician. The two married in 1953. they moved to Ohio for several years where Bill worked for a steel company. Dottie, with several small children, sold Fuller brushes door to door. But still she dreamed.

Her big break as a performer came on the Cleveland TV show, “Landmark Jamboree,” and she continued on the show for five years. In 1959, as the West’s were visiting Nashville, they auditioned for Starday Records, where she was picked up as an artist, but to no great success. Still it prompted the couple to move to Nashville in 1961, where they would befriend and write songs with the “who’s who” of country music. Willie Nelson. Kris Kristofferson. Roger Miller. Her dear friend, Patsy Cline. All were fixtures in the West home.

Dottie’s break as a write in Nashville came with a Jim Reeves cut, “Is This Me?” which went to #3. Jim then hooked Dottie up with the legendary producer and guitar player, Chet Atkins, who signed her with RCA Victor. After several singles reaching the top 40, she finally had her first hit with a song written by her and Bill entitled “Here Comes My Baby.” It reached the top 10, and in 1964,won Dottie a Grammy Award, the first ever given to a woman in country music (“Best Country and Western Performance, Female”). It was the same year Dottie became a member of the Grand Ole Opry.

Over the next few years, she had many hits. “Would You Hold It Against Me.” “Paper Mansions.” “Country Girl.” But in 1973, she wrote and recorded one of her most famous songs. “Country Sunshine.” It became the ad campaign song for Coca-Cola, and won Dottie a Clio Award, plus two Grammy nominations. Now all of America was singing Dottie’s songs.

The 70’s saw her marriage to Bill end, and a new chapter in her life began. A new husband. A new record labels. And a new look for Dottie. She was on top of the world. Then a chance meeting with Kenny Rogers while she was in a recording studio cutting “Every Time Two Fools Collide” made music history. The result of that union was a #1 hit. They also hit the top of the charts with “Anyone Who Isn’t Me Tonight,” which was rewarded by the CMA with the “Vocal Duo Of The Year” Award. Their two duet albums brought a string of hits, like “All I Ever Need Is You,” which reached #1, and “Til I Can Make It On My Own,” topping at #3. Again, in 1979, the couple won “Vocal Duo of the Year” as presented by the CMA. The following year, Dottie found huge success in her solo career with her first #1 song, “Lesson In Leavin,” a song recently re-cut by artist JoDee Messina. More albums. More hits. Bob Mackie designer clothes. Life was a dream come true for the little girl from McMinnville.

Along the way, Dottie had many opportunities to help others attain their dreams of stardom. Larry Gatlin and Steve Wariner are two such examples. She recognized their talent, and hired them to join the band. Steve wasn’t even out of high school at the time. Their time with Dottie was well spent, as both have gone on to become multi-award winning writers and performers. And both are quick to say they owe it all to Dottie.

Change soon came again for Dottie. Another turning point. A failed marriage. A new husband. A new record label. Over the next few years, Dottie set out to prove to the world she was more than just a great singer and a hit song writer. She was also an “actress,” performing in plays and movies, which were met with critical success. And after a few ups and downs, her career seemed to be on the rise again.

But in 1990, Dottie West faced her most difficult days. With bad investments from poor financial counsel, Dottie was indebted to the IRS for millions of dollars. When her possessions were taken from her and sold at public auction, she held her head high, greeted her fans, and signed momentos. It would take more than this to break Dottie West. She was planning recording projects. She was writing a book. Her life was looking upward once again.

It was in this time that her life “changed.” Easter of 1991 brought Dottie to church to see her son, Kerry, portray Jesus Christ in a church production called “One Touch.” At the end of the service, the pastor opened up the altar for anyone to come and pray, who needed “one touch.” And Dottie responded. Kerry, dressed as Jesus, escorted his mother to the altar and heard her prayer to the Lord, confessing Jesus as her Savior. Her life would never be the same again.

Fast forward five months. On August 30th, 1991, Dottie is scheduled to perform on the Opry, but had car trouble. An elderly neighbor gives her a ride but loses control of his car resulting in a terrible car crash. Dottie, not yet knowing the full extent of her injuries, pulls the man from the wreck. But she was wounded internally, beyond what anyone at the scene realized. Even Dottie herself. After several surgeries, on September 4th, Dottie West died. As the narrator on TNN’s special, The Life and Times of Dottie West, said sorrowfully, “The Country Sunshine was no more…”

A brilliant woman. A brilliant career. She will forever be remembered. And her musical legacy will endure forever.


“A lot of people sing words… Dottie West sang emotions.” — Kenny Rogers

NASHVILLE, Tenn., November 6, 2012 — 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:

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®.

More information about the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum is available at or by calling (615) 416-2001.




Copyright ©2009 Kenna Turner West • All Rights Reserved.

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