Dottie West (born Dorothy Marie Marsh; October 11, 1932 – September
4, 1991) was an American country music singer and songwriter. Along
with her friends and fellow recording artists
Patsy Cline and Loretta
Lynn, she is considered one of the genre's most influential and
groundbreaking female artists. Dottie West's career started in the
1960s, with her Top 10 hit, "Here Comes My Baby Back Again", which won
Grammy Award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance in 1965,
the first female in
Country Music to receive a Grammy.
In the early 1970s, West wrote a popular commercial for the Coca-Cola
company, titled "Country Sunshine", which reached No. 2 on Billboard's
Hot Country Singles in 1973. In the late-70s, she teamed up with
country pop superstar,
Kenny Rogers for a series of duets which took
her career to new highs, earning Platinum selling albums and No. 1
records for the very first time.
Her duet recordings with Rogers, "Every Time Two Fools Collide", "All
I Ever Need Is You", and "What Are We Doin' in Love", became country
music standards. In the mid-1970s, her image and music underwent a
metamorphosis, bringing her to the very peak of her popularity as a
solo act, and reaching #1 on her own for the first time in 1980 with
"A Lesson in Leavin'".
In 2018, West was posthumously inducted into the
Country Music Hall of
1 Early life
1.1 Childhood and teen years
1.2 Career discovery
2 Country music career
2.1 1963–1975: Country success
2.2 1976–1985: Country pop
3 Personal problems
3.1 1989–1990: Financial problems
4 Death and legacy
7 Awards and honors
8 Duet partners
Childhood and teen years
Dorothy Marie "Dottie" Marsh was born on October 11, 1932 in a
community called Frog Pond just outside McMinnville, Tennessee, to
Pelina Artha (née Jones; 1915 – 1970) and William Hollis Marsh
(1908 – 1967). She was the eldest of ten children. The family
was poor and to make ends meet, Pelina opened up a restaurant. West
often helped her mother run the establishment. Dottie's father, Hollis
Marsh, was an alcoholic who beat and sexually abused her. The abuse
continued until she was 17, when she finally reported him to the local
sheriff. She testified against her father in court, and he was
sentenced to 40 years in prison, and eventually died there in 1967.
After living with the sheriff for a short time, she moved to
McMinnville with her mother and siblings. She also joined her high
school band, "The Cookskins", where she sang and played guitar. In
1951, she obtained a music scholarship to Tennessee Technological
University in Cookeville, Tennessee. There she met her first husband,
a steel guitarist named Bill West, with whom she had four children.
She continued to use his surname professionally. She was a lifelong
This section relies largely or entirely on a single source. Relevant
discussion may be found on the talk page. Please help improve this
article by introducing citations to additional sources. (January 2017)
Dottie West moved with her family to Cleveland,
Ohio, where she began appearing on the television program Landmark
Jamboree as one half of a country pop vocal duo called the "Kay-Dots"
alongside partner Kathy Dee. At the same time, West made numerous
Nashville in the hopes of landing a recording deal. In 1959,
she and Bill auditioned for producer Don Pierce at Starday, and were
immediately offered a contract. The singles West cut for the label
proved unsuccessful, but she moved to
Nashville two years later, where
she and her husband fell in with aspiring songwriters, including
Willie Nelson, Roger Miller,
Hank Cochran and Harlan Howard. West
often played hostess to these struggling songwriters, offering them a
place to stay and eat. In return, they taught West about the structure
of songwriting. During this time, she also became a close friend of
groundbreaking female country singer
Patsy Cline and her husband
Cline would become one of West's biggest career inspirations. As West
related to Ellis Nassour in the 1980 book Patsy Cline, the greatest
advice Cline ever gave her was, "When you're onstage sing to the
audience with all of your heart and mean it. Then cast a spell over
them. If you can't do it with feeling, then don't." In their early
days in Nashville, West and her family would often not have enough to
pay the rent or buy the week's groceries, so Cline would hire her to
help with her wardrobe and West's husband Bill to play in her band.
Cline even offered to help pay West's rent or buy groceries when she
and Bill were struggling to stay in Nashville.
On March 5, 1963, Cline died in a plane crash along with Cowboy Copas,
Hawkshaw Hawkins, and her pilot and manager Randy Hughes on her way
home from a benefit at Memorial Hall in Kansas City, a concert West
also attended. West had asked Cline to ride with her and Bill in their
car, but Cline, anxious to get back home to her children, opted to fly
instead. In 1963,
Jim Reeves recorded a song written by West called
"Is This Me". It became a No. 3 hit that year. As a result,
Reeves helped West secure a recording contract with RCA Victor.
Country music career
This section needs additional citations for verification. Please help
improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources.
Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (April 2016) (Learn
how and when to remove this template message)
1963–1975: Country success
West earned her first Top 40 hit in 1963 with "Let Me Off at the
Corner", followed a year later by the Top Ten duet with Jim Reeves
"Love Is No Excuse". Also in 1964, she auditioned for RCA Victor
producer Chet Atkins, the architect of the
Nashville sound, who agreed
to produce her composition "Here Comes My Baby". The single made
Dottie the first female country artist to win a
Grammy Award (Best
Female Country Vocal Performance), leading to an invitation to join
the Grand Ole Opry. "Here Comes My Baby" reached No. 10 on
Billboard Magazine's Country charts in 1964. After releasing the Here
Comes My Baby LP in 1965, Dottie and producer
Chet Atkins reunited the
following year for Suffer Time, which generated her biggest hit yet in
"Would You Hold It Against Me". In 1967, the West/Atkins pairing
issued three separate albums: With All My Heart and Soul (featuring
the No. 8 smash "Paper Mansions"),
Dottie West Sings Sacred
Ballads and I'll
Help You Forget Her.
During the same period, she also appeared in a pair of films, Second
Fiddle to a Steel Guitar and There's a Still on the Hill. She
continued to have success as a solo artist during the late 1960s with
such songs as "What's Come Over My Baby" and "Country Girl" which
garnered her an offer to write a commercial based on it for Coca-Cola
in 1970. The soft drink company liked the result so much that it
signed her to a lifetime contract as a jingle writer.
After the 1968 LP Country Girl, West teamed with
Don Gibson for a
record of duets, Dottie and Don, featuring the number two hit "Rings
of Gold" released in 1969. The album was her last with Atkins, and she
followed it in 1970 with two releases, Forever Yours and Country Boy
and Country Girl, a collection of pairings with Jimmy Dean. Around the
time of Have You Heard Dottie West, released in 1971, she left her
husband Bill and, in 1972, married drummer Byron Metcalf, who was 12
years her junior. Due possibly in part to her recent stratospheric
success with duets, her solo career suffered between 1969 and 1972.
Most of her singles released at the time had failed even to peak in
the Top 40, and her album sales were declining.
In 1973, West provided
Coca-Cola with another ad, featuring a song
called "Country Sunshine". The popularity of the commercial prompted
her to release the song as a single, and it became one of her biggest
hits, reaching No. 2 on the country charts and No. 49 on the
Pop charts. The ad itself netted a
Clio Award for commercial of the
year and she became the first country artist ever to win that
particular honor. "Country Sunshine" proved to be a solid comeback as
she was nominated for two Grammys for the song,
Best Country Song and
Best Female Country Vocal Performance a year later.
After the release of House of Love in 1974, West notched a number of
Top 40 hits including the Top 10 "Last Time I Saw Him", "House of
Love", and "Lay Back Lover". Before signing with United Artists
Records in 1976, her final RCA album, Carolina Cousins, was released
in 1975.
1976–1985: Country pop
In the late 1970s, West's image underwent a major metamorphosis; the
woman who had once performed outfitted in conservative gingham
dresses, and had originally refused to record Kris Kristofferson's
Help Me Make It Through the Night" because it was "too sexy", began
appearing in spandex-sequined
Bob Mackie designs with 20 costumes
under a $400,000 contract. (She had relented in late 1970 and
Help Me Make It Through the Night" on the album Careless
Hands, which was released in 1971.) As the sexual revolution peaked,
so did West's career. Under United Artists, West's material changed
from traditional country to up-tempo and slow-tempo Adult
Contemporary-styled music. In 1977, West released her first album
under United Artists, When It's Just You and Me. The title track
peaked at No. 19 on the country charts.
In 1977, she was recording the song "Every Time Two Fools Collide"
when, according to legend,
Kenny Rogers suddenly entered the studio
and began singing along. Released as a duet, the single hit number
one, West's first; the duo's 1979 "All I Ever Need Is You" and 1981
"What Are We Doin' in Love" topped the charts as well. A 1979 duets
album, Classics, also proved successful. The duo proved popular
enough to be booked in some of the biggest venues in the United States
and other countries. In 1978 and 1979, the duo won the Country Music
Association's "Vocal Duo of the Year" award, one of West's few major
Dottie West promotional photo from 1981.
During the 1980s, West continued to generate solo hits, most notably
"A Lesson in Leavin'". Her popularity as a featured performer on the
Grand Ole Opry
Grand Ole Opry endured as well.
"A Lesson in Leavin'" was West's first No. 1 solo hit. It also
peaked at No. 73 on the pop charts. A week before "A Lesson in
Leavin'" reached the No. 1 spot, it was part of a historic Top 5 in
country music, when the Top 5 spots were all held by women. The album
that included this song,
Special Delivery, included two other Top 15
Country hits from 1980, "You Pick Me Up (And Put Me Down)" and
"Leavin's for Unbelievers". In 1981, West had a pair of back-to-back
No. 1 hits, "Are You Happy Baby" and "What Are We Doin' in Love"
with Kenny Rogers. "What Are We Doin' in Love" was West's only Top 40
hit on the pop charts, reaching No. 14, becoming a major
crossover hit in mid-1981. Her 1981 album Wild West was one of her
As the 1980s progressed, West's popularity began to slip. However,
she did introduce herself to younger audiences as she lent her voice
Melissa Raccoon in the film
The Raccoons and the Lost Star
The Raccoons and the Lost Star (1983),
a precursor to the later series produced by Kevin Gillis, The
Raccoons. West's 1982 album High Time spawned her last Top 20 hit,
"It's High Time", which reached No. 16. The album's other single,
"You're Not Easy to Forget", only peaked at No. 26. West's next
two albums under Liberty Records, Full Circle and New Horizons, were
both commercial failures. West's last Top 40 hit was "Tulsa Ballroom"
(1983) In 1984, West departed from her label and switched to the
independent label Permian.
In 1981, West's daughter Shelly also made a career in country music;
she is best known for her hit duet with David Frizzell, "You're the
Reason God Made Oklahoma", which hit No. 1 that year. As a solo
artist, Shelly notched her own No. 1 in 1983 entitled "José Cuervo".
During the early and mid 1980s, Shelly achieved several more hits,
including Top 10 solo hits "Flight 309 to Tennessee" and "Another
Motel Memory." After getting married in the late 1980s, Shelly left
the music business. In 1980,
Dottie West filed for divorce from Byron
Metcalf, citing his drinking and infidelity.
In 1982, she was asked to play the lead role in the stage production
of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. That summer, she toured for
four weeks in the stage production, performing across the country. She
had her own float in the
Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade
Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade that year. She
also posed for a revealing photo in the men's magazine Oui. In 1983,
she married her sound man, Al Winters, 22 years her junior. In 1984,
she appeared in the play Bring It On Home. In 1986, she made her
screen debut in the science fiction film The Aurora Encounter. In
1984, West released her final studio album, Just Dottie. This album
was not very successful; all three of the singles that it contained
failed to chart in the Top 40. Her last chart hit, "We Know Better
Now", reached only number 53 in 1985.
1989–1990: Financial problems
Although she remained a popular touring act, West's financial problems
mounted. West and Winters filed for divorce in 1990, and he sued her
for $7,500. By this time, extravagant spending and a string of bad
investments by her investors had left her nearly broke. In March, her
Los Angeles manager sued her for $130,000, and her former manager sued
her for $110,295. Furthermore, a local bank foreclosed on her mansion
outside of Nashville, and sent West an eviction notice on August 1,
1990. At this time, West owed the IRS $1.3 million and filed for
Chapter 11 bankruptcy; she later switched to Chapter 7, which allowed
her to liquidate her assets. West's fan-club president, Sandy Orwig,
Nashville Network in a 1995 interview that according to West,
the "IRS would show up at her door anytime of the day or night, taking
her possessions. They even separated and took apart her award plaques,
throwing half in one box and the other in another."
After a car accident in her Corvette and a public auction of her
mansion and possessions, West began making plans for a comeback,
including an album of duets and an autobiography. The album was to
feature West's friends and fellow artists Kenny Rogers, Roger Miller,
Tanya Tucker and Tammy Wynette. However, the album never materialized.
She recorded her last song in July 1991 called "As For Me", a duet
with Norwegian country singer Arne Benoni.
Death and legacy
This section does not cite any sources. Please help improve this
section by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material
may be challenged and removed. (January 2017) (Learn how and when to
remove this template message)
On August 30, 1991, West was scheduled to perform at the Grand Ole
Opry. Shortly after leaving her apartment at Nashville's Wessex
Towers, West's car, a Chrysler New Yorker which
Kenny Rogers had given
to her following the loss of her possessions at the IRS auction,
stalled in front of the old Belle Meade theater on Harding Road.
West's 81-year-old neighbor, George Thackston, spotted her on the side
of the road and offered to drive her to the Opry for her scheduled
appearance. Frantic about getting to the Opry on time, West had urged
Thackston to speed.
Thackston lost control of his vehicle while exiting at the Opryland
exit on Briley Parkway at a speed of 55 miles per hour; the exit ramp
was posted for 25 miles per hour. The car left the ramp, went airborne
and struck the central division. West did not believe she was as badly
injured as her neighbor had been and insisted he be treated first.
Officers who responded to the scene incorrectly reported she did not
seem harmed at the time. West herself was under the same impression,
however she had suffered severe internal injuries and proved to have
suffered both a ruptured spleen and a lacerated liver. Her spleen was
removed that Friday and, the following Monday, she underwent two more
surgeries to stop her liver from bleeding; these ultimately failed in
those efforts. Doctors said that West knew the extent of her injuries
and even visited with
Kenny Rogers shortly before her last operation.
On September 4, 1991, during her third operation, West died on the
operating table at 9:43 a.m., at the age of 58.
West's friend and fellow artist
Tammy Wynette stated that she had put
aside visiting her in the hospital, saying she had planned to allow
Dottie to heal first, something she admitted to later as regretting.
In his autobiography, Kenny Rogers, who maintained a very close
friendship with West, stated he did pay a visit to her in hospital a
few times prior to her death. On his last visit (the day of West's
death), Rogers recalled that although he was told it was unlikely West
could hear him, he still spoke to her for a considerable amount of
time in the hope she could hear what he was saying.
West's funeral was held at Christ Church on Old Hickory Boulevard with
600 friends and family attendees, including Emmylou Harris, Connie
Johnny Cash and
June Carter Cash
June Carter Cash and Larry Gatlin. West's
friend and fellow artist, Steve Wariner, whom she had helped moved to
Nashville as a young artist, sang "Amazing Grace".
A couple of weeks later, President George H. W. Bush, a longtime fan
for whom she had performed at the White House, expressed his
condolences at the CMA Awards.
West's hometown of
McMinnville, Tennessee dedicated Highway 56 to her
memory, naming it the
Dottie West Memorial Highway.
A previously planned country music-themed week for the 1991-92 season
of the syndicated Family Feud, scheduled to feature Grand Ole Opry
stars playing for charity, was dedicated in her memory.
George Thackston pleaded no contest to a charge of reckless
endangerment arising out of the fatal accident. On March 26, 1992, a
judge sentenced him to 11 months and 29 days of probation and also
ordered him to complete an alcohol treatment program. A blood alcohol
test performed after the crash found that Thackston had a blood
alcohol level of .08, which was not enough for him to be considered
intoxicated under Tennessee law.
In 1995, actress Michele Lee, with the help of West's daughter,
Shelly, produced and starred in the made-for-TV biopic Big Dreams and
Broken Hearts: The
Dottie West Story which premiered on CBS. Lee
starred with Kenny Rogers; wore all of West's original clothes,
including her famous
Bob Mackie outfits; and even sang West's hits for
the movie. It proved to be one of the most successful TV movies in CBS
history. That same year, a biography called Country Sunshine: The
Dottie West Story was released, written by Judy Berryhill and Francis
In 1999, country music singer
Jo Dee Messina
Jo Dee Messina covered West's biggest
solo hit, "A Lesson in Leavin'" for her album I'm Alright. The song
stayed at No. 2 for seven weeks on the Hot Country Singles &
Tracks chart that year, and was one of the year's biggest songs.
In 2000, West was honored with the BMI Golden Voice Awards with the
Female Golden Legacy Award. She was the second woman to win this type
of BMI award, the first being her friend and mentor Patsy Cline.
Today, her hometown of
McMinnville, Tennessee holds a "Dottie West
Music Festival" each year in October. West was ranked No. 23 in
Country Music Television's 40 Greatest Women of
Country Music in 2002.
In November 2003, CMT television voted West on their special countdown
of the 40 Greatest Fashion Statements in
Country Music at No. 32
for her glittery costumes and tight spandex outfits from the 1980s
time period. Dottie will become a member of the
Country Music Hall of Fame in 2018
Dottie West albums discography and
Dottie West singles
Awards and honors
Songwriters Award - "Is This Me" (w/ Bill West)
Songwriter's Award - "Here Comes My Baby" (w/ Bill West)
Best Female Country Vocal Performance - "Here Comes My Baby"
BMI Awards Awards
Songwriter's Award - "What's Come Over My Baby" (w/ Bill West)
Songwriter's Award - "Country Sunshine"
No. 1 Female Songwriter in the USA
Country Music Awards
No. 1 Female Performer
Excellence In Advertising - Country Sunshine
Country Music Association Awards
Vocal Duo of the Year - (w/ Kenny Rogers)
Country Music Association Awards
Vocal Duo of the Year - (w/ Kenny Rogers)
Music City News Country Awards
Duet of the Year - (w/ Kenny Rogers)
BMI Golden Voice Awards
Golden Legacy Award
Billboard Magazine's 200 Most Played Artists
Ranking - No. 44
CMT's 40 Greatest Women of Country Music
Ranking- No. 23
Country Music Hall of Fame
Best-Known Singles Together
"Love is No Excuse"
Reeves died before they released an album together
"Rings of Gold", "There's a Story Goin' Around"
Dottie and Don
Country Boy and Country Girl
"Every Time Two Fools Collide", "All I Ever Need Is You", "What Are We
Doin' In Love"
Every Time Two Fools Collide, Classics
"Lover to Lover"
"As For Me"
West died before an album was put together
Song was on 2003 Benoni album If I Live To Be A 100
^ Goldsmith, Thomas (September 4, 1991). "Legendary
Dottie West Dies".
^ Pelina Marsh Memorial, FindaGrave.com; accessed May 25, 2016
^ William Marsh Memorial, FindaGrave.com; accessed May 25, 2016
^ a b c d e
Dottie West biography, Allmusic.com; accessed January 28,
^ William Hollis March profile, FindaGrave.com; accessed April 2,
Dottie West biography at Allmusic
^ https://www.allmusic.com/artist/p1866/biography Dottie West
biography, Allmusic.com; accessed November 21, 2016.
^ a b
Dottie West biography at Allmusic
^ a b
Dottie West profile, allmusic.com; accessed November 21, 2016.
^ Reba McEntire's own earliest image imitated this appearance of West
before she developed her own look and style.
The Raccoons and the Lost Star". 1 January 2000 – via IMDb.
Dottie West biography, Allmusic.com; retrieved February 8, 2008.
^ Probation given in West smashup, Tuscaloosa News, page 2A (March 28,
1992); retrieved August 14, 2012.
Oermann, Robert K. (1998). "Dottie West". In The Encyclopedia of
Country Music. Paul Kingsbury, Editor. New York: Oxford University
Press. p. 578.
Wikiquote has quotations related to: Dottie West
Here Comes My Baby
The Country Girl Singing Sensation
Dottie West Sings
With All My Heart and Soul
Dottie West Sings Sacred Ballads
Help You Forget Her
What I'm Cut Out to Be
The Sound of Country Music
Dottie Sings Eddy
Country and West
Have You Heard ... Dottie West
I'm Only a Woman
If It's All Right With You/Just What I've Been Looking For
House of Love
When It's Just You and Me
Dottie and Don (with Don Gibson)
Country Boy and Country Girl (with Jimmy Dean)
Every Time Two Fools Collide
Every Time Two Fools Collide (with Kenny Rogers)
Classics (with Kenny Rogers)
The Best of Dottie West
Once You Were Mine
Are You Happy Baby: The Collection
The Essential Dottie West
Dottie West: RCA Country Legends
"My Big John"
"Here Comes My Baby"
"Would You Hold It Against Me"
"What's Come Over My Baby"
"Like a Fool"
"Last Time I Saw Him"
"When It's Just You and Me"
"Tonight You Belong to Me"
"Come See Me and Come Lonely"
"You Pick Me Up (And Put Me Down)"
"A Lesson in Leavin'"
"Leavin's for Unbelievers"
"Are You Happy Baby?"
"What Are We Doin' in Love" (with Kenny Rogers)
"(I'm Gonna) Put You Back on the Rack"
"It's High Time"
"Love Is No Excuse" (with Jim Reeves)
"Rings of Gold" (with Don Gibson)
"Till I Can't Take It Anymore" (with Don Gibson)
"Every Time Two Fools Collide" (with Kenny Rogers)
"Anyone Who Isn't Me Tonight" (with Kenny Rogers)
"All I Ever Need Is You" (with Kenny Rogers)
"'Til I Can Make It on My Own" (with Kenny Rogers)
"There's a Story (Goin' 'Round)" (with Don Gibson)
"Together Again" (with Kenny Rogers)
Country Music Hall of Fame 2010s
Jimmy Dean (2010)
Ferlin Husky (2010)
Billy Sherrill (2010)
Don Williams (2010)
Bobby Braddock (2011)
Reba McEntire (2011)
Jean Shepard (2011)
Garth Brooks (2012)
Hargus "Pig" Robbins (2012)
Connie Smith (2012)
Bobby Bare (2013)
Jack Clement (2013)
Kenny Rogers (2013)
Hank Cochran (2014)
Ronnie Milsap (2014)
Mac Wiseman (2014)
Jim Ed Brown
Jim Ed Brown and
The Browns (2015)
Grady Martin (2015)
The Oak Ridge Boys
The Oak Ridge Boys (2015)
Charlie Daniels (2016)
Fred Foster (2016)
Randy Travis (2016)
Alan Jackson (2017)
Jerry Reed (2017)
Don Schlitz (2017)
Ricky Skaggs (2018)
Dottie West (2018)
Johnny Gimble (2018)
Members of the Grand Ole Opry
David "Stringbean" Akeman
Bashful Brother Oswald
Binkley Brothers' Dixie Clodhoppers
Jim Ed Brown
Carl Butler and Pearl
The Carter Sisters
June Carter Cash
Wilma Lee Cooper
Dailey & Vincent
The Delmore Brothers
The DeZurik Sisters
Little Jimmy Dickens
The Duke of Paducah
The Everly Brothers
The Gully Jumpers
Tom T. Hall
George Hamilton IV
George D. Hay
Jim & Jesse
Johnnie & Jack
Pee Wee King
Little Big Town
Lonzo and Oscar
The Louvin Brothers
Uncle Dave Macon
Jimmy C. Newman
The Oak Ridge Boys
Old Crow Medicine Show
Riders in the Sky
Rusty and Doug
Ricky Van Shelton
Fiddlin' Arthur Smith
B. J. Thomas
Uncle Jimmy Thompson
Tompall & the Glaser Brothers
Leroy Van Dyke
The Wilburn Brothers
The Willis Brothers
ISNI: 0000 0000 5514 722X
BNF: cb139011119 (data)